The need for energy resilience to form part of our response to climate resilience is becoming more significant. We only have to look at recent extreme weather events such as storms Barra and Eunice to witness the extreme pressure the electrical infrastructure was under during these events. So, why is it important to have a resilient energy network and what can your business do to improve energy resilience?
Our reliance on resilient electricity
For most businesses, a loss of electricity or a power outage will result in losses in revenue. For example, a power cut may halt production for a manufacturing company or an IT services company will lose internal and external communications. In a worst-case scenario, a power outage could be critical - for instance, the healthcare sector depends on a resilient electricity system to ensure life-saving equipment remains functional.
As climate change progresses, it is predicted that the UK will experience more extreme weather1, events including increased rainfall. Extreme heatwaves and cold snaps are also becoming more common2. This all puts pressure on electricity systems in the form of increased demand coupled with infrastructure damage, meaning resilience measures must be in place to maintain quality of supply and to prevent power outages.
The energy system is currently in transition and we are moving from a highly centralised, fuel-based generation to a more decentralised, renewable-based system. This change may be beneficial for the resilience of the energy system, but it does mean we must change how we think about resilience. Renewable generation can be vulnerable to extreme weather, meaning systems need to be in place to avoid power outages. This may be in the form of energy storage, demand-side responses and grid reinforcements.
How to improve resilience?
The first step to becoming energy resilient is to have a robust energy resilience strategy in place for your business. We operate as an energy infrastructure partner for our clients, identifying and assessing all risks, identifying mitigation options, implementing mitigation measures where it is required, continuously assessing the level of existing risks and identifying new risks. We work together to have contingency plans in place in the event that mitigation measures are unsuccessful.
Resilience can also be bolstered by having energy independence. This can be achieved by the development of microgrids and private networks. These systems increase energy resilience by incorporating distributed energy resources such as generators, energy storage systems or controllable loads. Introducing or increasing on-site generation such as solar PV and wind decreases reliance on external power sources, protecting against network failures.
Having an optimised asset management plan including regular asset inspections and maintenance programmes of electrical assets will also provide and additional layer of resilience. For instance, we provide operation and regular maintenance support for Southern Water’s 70 high voltage sites in the UK. We improve security of supply and resilience whilst reducing the risk of network failure. This oversight is invaluable when it comes to identifying and isolating faults quickly as well as putting in plans in place for when old electrical assets need to be replaced.
Energy infrastructure is often an unseen but highly critical element to most business operations. It’s often only when resilience plans are not in place and a failure occurs that its importance comes to the fore.
By Rosie Watt, Analyst - Energy Technology Consulting