Certainly, last fall’s Hurricane or “SuperStorm” Sandy made us look at energy and other utilities in a new light. The 12-foot storm surge overwhelmed many people and businesses who are long-time shore dwellers and thought they had seen it all. There is no question in my mind that climate change at least contributed to the severity of the storm from the fact that the base height of all oceans (not just those on the East Coast) has been growing by over an inch per decade and its rate of rise is itself rising to the intense energy the storm had, certainly contributed to by the extra energy captured in the atmosphere by greenhouse gases beyond their historic concentrations. So in this article, I’ll try to focus on suggestions to improve your energy security and diversity.
Energy and Operation Planning
Your company needs to begin to plan for extreme weather events. What type of events may your facilities be vulnerable to? Extreme heat? Storm surge? Flooding? Wind? What areas of your business may be affected? The buildings themselves? The roads leading to and from them on which trucks or ships bring in raw materials and out your goods? Critical waterways? How were your facilities, procedures, and routes planned? They were probably not planned based on worst case storms hitting your facilities or routes periodically. Or if they were, the definition of a worst-case storm – as Sandy has demonstrated – has now changed. Take some time to determine where your vulnerable points that you can control are throughout the lifecycle of your products. Where are you vulnerable and what can be done to maintain integrity? A small, but smart, investment in that now can save you a lot of money, risk, and aggravation later.
What are some easy things to do? First, look at the physical. As a result of Sandy, there is already talk in New York City of requiring all future buildings to house their electrical relay and HVAC systems above ground, not in basements that could get flooded. Perhaps moving the systems that you depend on for basic functions to less vulnerable locations is worth considering. Think of these as not “backoffice”, but critical centers. How about energy, the lifeline of any operation (manufacturing, office, etc.)? Consider backup power, whether that be a simple backup generator, solar panels, or a cogen, in case a power line outside your facility goes down. Also, consider modifying your boiler system to be able to combust more than one type of fuel, in case certain fuels become scarcer (see the gasoline lines!), even temporarily. Burners can be so modified. Installing the appropriate storage, piping, meters, and controls can give you greater assurance that you can continue operating if a catastrophe occurs, saving much money.
Marc Karell is the owner of Climate Change & Environmental Services. CCES technical experts can help you perform such site-specific evaluations of your energy security and diversity, which can reduce your risk of failure. See our website: www.CCESworld.com for more information or contact me at karell@CCESworld.com.