Understanding and Assessing Impacts
Horizon Utilities sees increasing impacts from climate change. In its operating area, climate change means temperature shifts, more intense storms and increased precipitation. For example, Ontario has been experiencing erratic temperature shifts over recent years, significantly affecting Horizon Utilities’ revenues as a result of electricity consumption (for heat in the winter and air-conditioning in the summer).
Horizon Utilities sees storms occurring more frequently, occasionally causing power outages. Storms damage poles, overhead lines, transformers, substations and other distribution assets, forcing the company to invest in additional labour crews and maintenance programs. Unhappy customers also pose reputational risks. In July 2013, for example, high winds and lightning strikes felled hundreds of trees. Approximately 20,000 Horizon customers lost power at the storm’s peak; completely restoring power took several days.
Rain also affects Horizon Utilities’ infrastructure and electricity delivery. Rain results in more vegetation, said Joseph Almeida, director, Supply Chain Management. As vines and plants grow on poles, they attract animals such as squirrels and snakes; these animals travel up the poles and onto the wires, occasionally interrupting electricity distribution. Over the next 50 years, the Hamilton area can expect further changes, including:
- warmer temperatures;
- more extreme weather events;
- heavy precipitation in a short time; and
- increased total annual precipitation.