How Investments in Climate Resiliency Can Pay Off Later
Investments made now to make critical infrastructure more climate resilient have proven to pay off later on.
Several published studies have examined this issue and have estimated that for every $1 a utility spends on pre-disaster mitigation or hardening measures will result in a post-event recovery and replacement savings between $4 and $36. With hurricanes projected to become stronger due to climate change, and with recent damage from hurricanes resulting in substantial damage to coastal utilities from Irma, to Harvey, Maria to Matthew, communities have learned a difficult lesson that relying on FEMA to rebuild hasn’t always resulted in a quick restoration to the impacted system’s integrity. FEMA dollars are becoming harder to come by and are likely to continue to become more difficult if projections are correct.
So why is it difficult for a coastal utility to invest in climate resilience? For many utilities, reasons that pre-disaster mitigation funds are often very difficult to obtain from the utility’s already limited budget include but are not necessarily limited to:
- If it’s not visible and tangible, it can be more difficult to get buy in from stakeholders. Often mitigation measures cannot be seen easily by the tax paying public, like a new fire station, a new highway, or even a park.
- Post-disaster aid can produce much more political capital than less visible long-term mitigation measures. It is not unusual for a lot of political gain to be accumulated from being viewed as leading the recovery after a natural disaster, like a hurricane.
- It is necessary to complete disaster recovery work, mitigation work is often not seen as the highest and best use of limited utility funds.
However, there are solutions out there to help a utility obtain funding of resilience measures.
Not sure where you are in the process? Freese and Nichols’ team has experience assessing climate vulnerability of infrastructure and creating climate resiliency. Our team has conducted climate vulnerability assessments for several utilities in coastal Florida and Georgia and assisted in the planning and design of hardening measures to make those utilities climateresilient. The Freese and Nichols team also has expertise in the overall master planning and funding required to pay for these necessary improvements.