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Powering resilience: Duke Energy's climate adaptation journey

We helped the electric utility pinpoint and strategically address its climate vulnerabilities, crafting a robust adaptation plan that not only enhances utility operations but also safeguards customers and the broader community.

Unique stakeholder groups engaged
customers that will benefit

Amid the dynamic challenges posed by a changing climate and escalating extreme weather events, Duke Energy has embarked on a transformative journey toward climate resilience and adaptation.

Informed by a collaborative approach with a diverse set of stakeholders and regulatory oversight, Duke Energy initiated the Climate Risk and Resilience Study as part of its ongoing commitment to assess and mitigate the impacts of climate change on its operations in North and South Carolina.


Duke Energy, a pioneer in setting ambitious emissions reduction goals, faced a new challenge: assessing the physical impact of climate change on its extensive power transmission and distribution assets in the Carolinas. This significant undertaking aimed to create a comprehensive Climate Risk and Resilience Study, focusing on evolving vulnerabilities under various climate scenarios.

Duke energy logo

Building on Duke Energy’s interim report published in September 2022, the task at hand involved more than just identifying current weaknesses; it required a forward-looking analysis to understand shifts in the overall risk profile. To address the identified risks, Duke Energy aimed to create a flexible framework that would allow the utility to swiftly adapt to new climate information to maintain operational readiness and reliability for its customers.


At the heart of Duke Energy's solution was the use of advanced climate science and technology. Our team of in-house climate scientists leveraged ICF’s proprietary risk modeling platform, ClimateSight, to deliver a robust set of forward-looking projections for Duke Energy.

With our institutional knowledge and proprietary climate risk modeling data as a foundation, we developed an interactive, granular map for Duke Energy. This map did more than visualize climate risks under different emissions scenarios; it layered in social vulnerability data, transforming it into a powerful tool for community engagement and education. Using additional internal mapping of the risk scenarios across different time periods combined with information on asset locations and sensitivity, Duke Energy can pinpoint specific vulnerabilities in its power transmission and distribution operations. For example, Duke Energy now has insights on the number and location of substations that are at high risk for changes in precipitation and inland flooding, wildfires, and extreme heat.

Precipitation and inland flooding

Over the coming decades, higher atmospheric moisture content and other factors may increase the amount of rainfall during periodic heavy downpours, increasing the potential for flash flooding and resulting in destructive landslides and debris flows.

These changes could affect 5% of Duke Energy’s total substations located in existing FEMA 500-year flood plains, as well as the 38% of total substations and 21% of total transmission structures that are located in regions of high landslide incidence or susceptibility.

Coastal flooding

Rising sea levels and projected increases in hurricane intensity may result in increased flood risk for coastal infrastructure on a permanent basis and/or an increase in the degree and duration of storm surge events.

Impacts to transmission assets are more likely to be chronic, while impacts to substations, which are highly sensitive to flooding, may be more likely at a limited number of locations, where storm surge coupled with rising sea levels could exceed flooding thresholds, resulting in severe impacts.

High temperatures and extreme heat

Temperatures and extreme heat are projected to increase over the coming decades, impacting heat-sensitive transmission and distribution assets.

Under a high climate change scenario, 1,960 miles (10%) of overhead transmission conductor are projected to see temperatures exceeding 110°F on more than one day per year.

Recognizing the importance of stakeholder involvement, Duke Energy committed to incorporating diverse community perspectives into its resilience planning. This commitment was exemplified in the formation of the Technical Working Group (TWG), a coalition of 37 unique organizations, bringing together experts from various sectors, including academia, state and local governments, and Fortune 500 companies.

This collaborative group, led by ICF, played a crucial role in shaping Duke Energy’s climate resilience strategy. Through interviews, multiparty discussions, email updates, and surveys, the TWG provided invaluable insights that informed the assessment methodology, guided the assessment's goals and objectives, and significantly contributed to the depth and relevance of the study’s findings.


Since 2022, Duke Energy, in collaboration with ICF and with valuable input from stakeholders, developed the Climate Adaptation Flexible Framework. This strategic framework encompasses four primary pillars, depicted below:

Duke energy client story - graphicDuke energy client story - graphic

These pillars not only guide Duke Energy's investments in climate change adaptation but also focus on areas with the highest potential for risk reduction, ultimately benefiting Duke Energy's customers.

The beauty of this framework lies in its adaptability, designed to evolve alongside the changing needs, capabilities, and pressures on Duke Energy's system. Moreover, it serves as a model for future planning efforts. The approach outlined for each pillar is versatile, allowing for the incorporation of additional considerations, such as grid modernization plans, community-led climate resilience initiatives, and addressing the unique needs of various populations.

While resilience remains the primary focus, the framework takes into account other essential factors, including carbon reduction and support for vulnerable populations during outages, thus ensuring a holistic and inclusive approach to planning. The Climate Adaptation Flexible Framework is more than a strategy; it's a commitment to securing a resilient future for Duke Energy and the communities it serves.

“Investments aren't needed everywhere for every asset all at once. But using the information we produced combined with other investment priority information means Duke Energy can smartly plan out its investments over the coming decades and get ahead of this evolving risk.”

Brenda Dix
ICF’s Director of Climate Resilience
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