Understanding the Impacts of Climate Change on an Electric Distribution Utility in Canada

Toronto, Canada

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In the face of increasingly severe storms and weather related service disruptions, Toronto Hydro sought to establish a better understanding of the impacts of a changing climate on the company’s assets, operations and electrical service provision. AECOM was selected by Toronto Hydro over the course of several years to support the organization in this ongoing effort.

To inform AECOM’s analysis and recommendations, our team reviewed how utility owners and operators across the world were tackling the issues of climate change. AECOM also undertook analyses of extreme weather related outages causing service disruptions and damages to Toronto Hydro’s system to highlight how weather has affected their distribution assets and service reliability. Impacts which were highlighted include extreme temperatures generating high electrical demand and unusual operating conditions, flooding of below-grade sub-stations and equipment, and ice and wind damages to overhead lines and poles, all of which had the potential to cause significant customer outages. AECOM also completed several vulnerability assessment workshops with Toronto Hydro to better understand the potential impacts of a changing climate on assets and operations. At the same time, these activities helped to build organizational awareness and knowledge of climate change issues. AECOM’s analysis concluded that a changing climate is expected to impact the reliability of the electrical distribution system, and that Toronto Hydro will be increasing be required to manage assets that may not have been designed for future climate conditions.

AECOM’s work over several years provided recommendation and guidance to the organization on climate adaptation planning and building a business case for investment. Recommendations and future activities included:

  • Undertaking further detailed studies on specific assets and various potential service scenarios;
  • Evaluating and prioritizing solutions to address climate risks;
  • Investigating financing and funding options;
  • Developing implementation plans;
  • Integrating solutions within organizational, operational and stakeholder engagement frameworks; and
  • Ongoing monitoring of system performance and reliability.

AECOM’s climate adaptation work also supported Toronto Hydro’s 2015 – 2019 rate application to the provincial energy regulator, within which the company outlined its intention to conduct further climate change focused engineering analyses to inform further decision-making, standards development and project implementation to enhance the resilience of its electrical distribution system to a changing climate.

Additional Services:

  • Climate adaptation
  • Planning
  • Asset identification