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Weathering the Storm: Building Business Resilience to Climate Change

July 16, 2013

From the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), this report provides a detailed snapshot of the state of resilience planning among a cross-section of global companies, and outlines steps companies can take to better assess and manage their growing climate risks. The report includes a comprehensive review of resilience practices among S&P Global 100 Index companies and detailed case studies of six companies in diverse sectors: American Water, Bayer, The Hartford Group, National Grid, Rio Tinto and Weyerhaeuser.

Authors or Affiliated Users: Meg Crawford, Stephen Seidel

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Baltimore Shines - Baltimore, Maryland

Baltimore Shines is a Baltimore City initiative that helps low-income residents access solar energy through either rooftop installations or community solar projects in Baltimore, Maryland. The program also expands workforce development opportunities in the solar installation industry. Baltimore Shines pilot projects were used to learn about barriers preventing solar installation in low-income communities and to inform the development of a sustainable financing model to increase access to solar energy. As the initial step to teaching energy affordability awareness, Baltimore Shines had community residents’ homes retrofitted by its close affiliate, Civic Works, which installed energy and water conservation equipment in homes. This program was not income restricted and is open to any Baltimore City homeowner or tenant residing in a house or apartment. Baltimore Shines also incorporated the development of workforce opportunities for underemployed and unemployed Baltimore residents through job-training and job placement. Additionally, Baltimore Shines leveraged a state funding program - the Maryland Community Solar Pilot program - that supported investments in renewable energy projects benefiting low- and moderate- income customers and encouraged private investment in the state’s solar industry with incentives for the investors. The program ultimately lowered bills, increased wages for some of the City’s low-income, under-employed or unemployed residents, and enhanced access to solar for many throughout the city. 

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Clean Energy Works Portland, Oregon

June 1, 2009

The City of Portland, Oregon Bureau of Planning and Sustainability pilot program - Clean Energy Works Portland - provides solar panel installation and energy efficiency upgrades to members of the Portland community. Clean Energy Works Portland’s primary focus is on employing workers coming from frontline populations, including people of color and women. This focus is enforced through a legally binding “Community Workforce Agreement” (CWA), requiring that of the hours worked in completion of the Program, at least 30% must have been completed by individuals that have historically been disadvantaged or underrepresented in the workforce, which includes people of color, women, and low-income individuals.

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People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH Buffalo), New York

January 2001

People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH) Buffalo was founded in 2005 to serve as a resource to residents in Western New York communities to help provide affordable, resilient housing, create local hiring opportunities for underserved members of the community, and to “advance economic and environmental justice in Buffalo. ” Since its founding the non-profit has established a wide variety of programs that advance these goals, and provides employment opportunities statewide. The Hiring Hall program helps to staff PUSH Green with underemployed and underrepresented members of the Buffalo community - especially people of color and women - to train disadvantaged residents on a variety of different careers, with a focus on the green energy/technology field.

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Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas — State of New Jersey: Blue Acres Buyout Program

July 15, 2020

The New Jersey Blue Acres Buyout Program is a nationally recognized example of a longstanding, state-run buyout program. Blue Acres works closely with municipalities throughout the state to identify privately owned properties that are routinely threatened or flooded due to sea-level rise and more frequent weather events. The program works directly with local governments to prioritize comprehensive buyouts of affected neighborhoods, instead of individual properties, and restores and protects the properties to maximize the flood and cost-reduction benefits for communities and the environment. To accomplish effective state-local coordination, the program has a diversified staff that meets local needs including case workers who work directly with participants in each buyout area, and a financial team that negotiates mortgage forgiveness with banks and other financial lenders on behalf of homeowners. As climate change worsens and makes extreme weather events more common, other states and local governments may increasingly evaluate the potential for buyouts, particularly in coastal jurisdictions. Decisionmakers could consider institutionalizing buyouts as a part of comprehensive climate adaptation and coastal and floodplain management strategies to encourage neighborhoods to relocate to safer, higher ground areas and restore ecosystems to attain flood, natural resources, and other community benefits.

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Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas — Charlotte-Mecklenburg County, North Carolina: Floodplain Buyout Program

July 15, 2020

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services (CMSS) — a county-wide regional utility in North Carolina — has been administering a Floodplain Buyout Program to relocate vulnerable residents out of floodplains and reduce long-term flood damage. The buyout program is focused on risk reduction and flood mitigation best practices, where once bought out, properties are returned to open space uses to restore their natural beneficial flood retention and water quality improvement functions and provide other community amenities, like parks and trails. CMSS has purchased more than 400 flood-prone homes and businesses and enabled over 700 families and businesses to relocate to less vulnerable locations outside of the floodplain. CMSS has also supported a number of leaseback arrangements on a case-by-case basis with property owners to increase participation in the buyout program and reduce the county’s property maintenance costs. The program has been funded through a combination of federal and local government sources, with leasebacks also supporting the recapture of some costs. Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s Floodplain Buyout Program is an example of a nationally recognized approach to supporting voluntary retreat in a riverine floodplain. Other local governments could consider adopting a comprehensive buyout program like Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s or individual program elements, like local funding options or leasebacks, to help support voluntary retreat decisions in coastal areas experiencing sea-level rise, impacts from disaster events, and land loss. This case study is one of 17 case studies featured in a report written by the Georgetown Climate Center, Managing the Retreat from Rising Seas: Lessons and Tools from 17 Case Studies.

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New York City, ConEd Storm Hardening and Resiliency Collaborative

The Storm Hardening and Resiliency Joint Agreement demonstrates how community-based organizations can advocate for investments in grid resilience and ensure that investments are made without significant rate increases for low-income customers. Vulnerabilities and inequities in energy infrastructure were exposed following Superstorm Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, which caused significant impacts to New York City’s (NYC) energy system. To protect customers, the region, and energy systems from future natural disasters, Consolidated Edison, Inc. (ConEd) proposed a $1 billion capital investment for years 2013 through 2016 to mitigate impacts of future extreme weather, protect infrastructure, harden energy system components, and facilitate restoration. The utility organized a “Resiliency Collaborative” process to decide on how funds will be spent in their rate application filing. A collaboration of 12 parties including ConEd, NYC agency officials, and nonprofit and academic stakeholders resulted in a Joint Agreement between state Public Service Commission (PSC), ConEd, and other collaborative parties that froze electric rates for two years and required $1 billion in investment in storm hardening and resiliency. The multi-year rate plans ensure that delivery rates will not increase until after the rate plans have ended. The plan also offers rate mitigation for customers while assuring continued safe and reliable service. The agreement also provides for the expansion of the ConEd low-income discount programs to ConEd’s electric and gas businesses for the benefit of low income customers.

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Designing new models of energy distribution: Hunts Point Community Microgrid, New York City

The Hunts Point Microgrid Project is an initiative of the New York City Economic Development Corporation and the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency (ORR), designed to protect important citywide infrastructure during emergencies that threaten energy distribution and to address critical vulnerabilities for both community and industry. The project integrates energy technologies that minimize power disruption in times of extreme weather in an area that serves as a major food-supply hub located in the Bronx, New York City. Hunts Point was identified as a priority area for climate resilience initiatives after Hurricane Sandy, as the potential impacts of the storm exposed the importance and vulnerability of the food systems infrastructure in the region. The project studied the feasibility of a district cogeneration facility to provide electricity, steam, and refrigeration to local food markets, nearby businesses, and the residential community facilities in the area. In addition to its vulnerability to climate impacts, the Bronx has socioeconomically vulnerable residents - the average household income in the borough is 40% lower than the city average and 34% lower than the national average. The South Bronx, where Hunts Point is located, is 57.1% Hispanic and 39.8% Black. The South Bronx neighborhood is also home to a major wholesale food cooperative located at the Hunts Point Food Distribution Center, as well as 12,300 residents and one of the City’s larger wastewater treatment plants.

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Hawaii Microgrid Tariff

Hawaii is the first state to begin a utility commission proceeding to create a tariff to pay microgrid owners and streamline the interconnection processes. The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission opened a docket and proceeding to “Investigate Establishment of a Microgrid Services Tariff” in response to the passage of Act 200, which directed the Public Utilities Commission to study the establishment of the potential tariff. The Act was passed after extreme weather and volcanic activity on Hawaii Island threatened to cut off several communities or make access extremely difficult. The Act acknowledges that Hawaii is more vulnerable than other states to disruptions in its energy systems due to extreme weather events, and notes that microgrid solutions could provide community-scale power on an emergency basis without connection to the island-wide grid. A microgrid tariff would allow for easier development of customer-sited, islandable systems. Hawaii has existing microgrids on several of its islands that are already helping to make the state’s electric grid more resilient and reliable.  In the wake of Kilauea’s recent eruptions on the island of Hawaii – where transmission lines and distribution equipment have been destroyed by lava – Hawaii Electric Light (HELCo) has also started planning a small microgrid to serve isolated communities and vacation areas threatened by lava encroaching on residential subdivisions.

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Buffalo, New York Medical Microgrid - NY Prize

Microgrid projects selected for funding through the NYSERDA NY Prize competition, including a project serving the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, demonstrate how states can fund microgrid pilot projects and evaluate the resilience benefits delivered by these types of projects. The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC) secured $1 million in funding from the New York Energy and Research Development Authority’s (NYSERDA) NY Prize to deploy a microgrid project to serve vital medical facilities in Buffalo, New York. The project covers nine health care, life science research, and education facilities including New York’s only freestanding pediatric health facility. The project also serves portions of the adjacent Fruit Belt low income residential neighborhood, which shares common electric infrastructure with the medical campus. BNMC’s proposal emphasized the importance of enabling the health and cancer research facilities to maintain 100 percent service quality during extended power interruptions. The proposal also stressed engaging with surrounding communities to identify priority investment areas, building on existing neighborhood assets by planning a multipurpose community center, advancing a collaborative workforce development strategy, and establishing a land bank program for example. The proposal used the Industrial Economics, Inc. (IEc) model to evaluate the costs and benefits of the microgrid project for critical services. The state of New York created the competition  to spur microgrid development in light of climate change impacts, and called for a variety for microgrid designs involving Combined Heat and Power (CHP), renewables, energy storage, alternative fuel/generation, and controllable loads. The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus microgrid project was selected for funding as part of an initiative to upgrade and redevelop the campus and its surrounding neighborhoods. 

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