Climate Change Adaptation


Climate Change Impacts Utility Services

Climate change is impacting California, and many of the industries the CPUC regulates are affected. Robust climate adaptation planning in a time of worsening climate impacts is a prudent next step to ensure the safety and reliability of all investor-owned public utilities. While the CPUC has focused on climate change mitigation programs over the past few years, the CPUC is now working on addressing the real impacts climate change will or is having.  For example, California is experiencing impacts from climate change, such as:

  • Rising sea levels that can potentially inundate power plants and substations.
  • Increased temperatures that cause additional strain on transformers.
  • Increased line losses between electric generators and load.
  • Increased overall electric demand for air conditioning during heat waves.


How the CPUC is Responding

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued an Order Instituting Rulemaking (R.18-04-019) on May 7, 2018 to integrate climate change adaptation matters in relevant CPUC proceedings. Safeguarding California’s utility access against climate threats is a major undertaking, and the CPUC anticipates multiple phases to deal with aspects of the water, telecommunication, electric and natural gas utilities. Phase 1 only addresses the electric and natural gas utilities.


What the CPUC is Working on Now

Phase 1 of the proceeding is currently underway. This phase considers five topics:

  • Topic 1: How to define climate change adaptation for the electricity and natural gas utilities.
  • Topic 2: Ways to address climate change adaptation issues in CPUC proceedings and activities to ensure safety and reliability of utility operations.
  • Topic 3: Data, tools, and resources necessary for utility planning and operations related to climate adaptation.
  • Topic 4: Risks facing the electric and natural gas utilities with respect to climate change adaptation and the magnitudes of these risks.
  • Topic 5: Guidance to electric and gas utilities on how to incorporate adaptation into their planning and operations.


Proceeding Results


Topics 1 and 2 – Definitions and Data

Decision 19-10-054:

  • Defines climate change adaptation for energy utilities in California. Climate Change Adaptation, as defined by the CPUC in this proceeding, means:

    “Climate change adaptation is adjustment in natural and human systems to a new or changing environment. Adaptation to climate change for energy utilities regulated by the Commission refers to adjustment in utility systems using strategic and data-driven consideration of actual or expected climatic impacts and stimuli or their effects on utility planning, facilities maintenance and construction, and communications, to maintain safe, reliable, affordable and resilient operations.”

  • Identifies Data Sources. The California Fourth Climate Assessment and any subsequent assessments are the primary source of climate forecasts, pathways, and scientific studies. Decision 19-10-054 establishes the criteria for any further data or models that energy utilities may develop to understand climate impacts. Decision 19-10-054 also identifies the most recent California Statewide Climate Change Assessment as a source for climate scenarios and projections when analyzing climate impacts, climate risk, and climate vulnerability of utility systems, operations, and customers.
  • Specifies planning standards. The energy utilities are to use business-as-usual Representative Concentration Pathways 8.5 for planning, investment and operational purposes.


Topics 3, 4 and 5

The CPUC is currently considering topics 3, 4, and 5.


Workshop Reports

Working groups met at least once on each topic in a series of workshops to discuss the five proceeding issues. A different utility summarized the discussion, and you can find the reports below:


Additional Information

Please find below additional relevant information and resources on climate adaptation approaches and research that are informing the CPUC’s work:


Getting Involved

Any person may be on the service list for a proceeding for information only, and that person will stay informed about developments in the proceeding by receiving e-mails with all documents sent by the CPUC, by parties participating in the proceeding, as well as by receiving notices of workshops or other events related to the proceeding.

To add yourself to the service list for the CPUC’s Climate Adaption Proceeding, email and include the proceeding number (R.18-04-019), your name, title, organization, address, phone number, and e-mail. You can also find out more information from CPUC’s service list website.

The full docket card for each proceeding can be accessed through the CPUC docket card search tool. Enter the proceeding number (R1804019) without any periods or dashes to search. Final decisions can also be located on the CPUC website using this decision search tool.

The CPUC’s Public Advisor's Office provides procedural information and advice to individuals and groups who want to formally participate in proceedings.

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