In North America, a new report by research organisation for advancing smart energy communities in Canada QUEST states that resilient energy plans are imperative to ensure a secure distribution system in the wake of severe weather risks.
QUEST found that 90% of energy distributors in Canada experienced negative impacts from a severe weather event within the past 10 years.
The Ontario-based organisation prepared the Resilient Pipes and Wires report drawing on input from energy utilities, emergency responders, technical experts and policy analysts, and recommends a range of climate change adaptation measures to better protect against system disruption and/or more quickly restore it to service.
According to Building Strategies and Sustainability, the report details four ‘pillars’ of resilience that energy utilities are to implement – Robustness (the ability to withstand and remain operational in severe weather), Resourcefulness (ability to respond to severe weather events and to manage effectively), Recovery (ability to restore operations after an outage) and Adaptability (ability to learn from experience and strengthen resilience in the future).
Says Brent Gilmour, QUEST’s executive director: “Resilient energy distribution is important not only for ensuring the health and welfare of our cities and communities, but also for advancing ‘smart energy’ communities, which improve energy efficiency, enhance reliability, cut costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
In order to achieve robust, pro-active smart energy distribution system, QUEST states that utilities need the commitment and support at all levels of government.
Energy distributors are advised to identify system vulnerabilities, augment their defences and have operational, staffing and communications plans in place for outages and related fallout.
Elected officials and policy makers are called on to ensure that building and land use regulations reflect the reality of climate change, and communities are adequately prepared for storm-triggered events.
The smart energy advocacy body put forth 28 recommendations that cover a multitude of areas including risk assessment, coordinated response strategies and capital investment as primary themes for the energy distributors, and policy makers’ responsibility in enacting regulations and enforcing compliance.
The Resilient Pipes and Wires report stated that unexpected and lengthy power outages adversely affect productivity, property, health and safety, stating: “CRCI (University of Toronto’s Centre for Resilience of Critical Infrastructure) has found that the market tolerance for energy service interruptions has decreased significantly, from weeks in 2001 to hours in 2015.”
QUEST adds that data analytics, monitoring and maintenance of vegetation and climate modelling are being employed by utilities and are powerful tools as precautionary measures.