Grid Locks: Over the years, we’ve had plenty of occasions to talk about the fragility of the power grids in the United States and elsewhere. The systems we’re so dependent on are at risk from multiple threats that range from the impact of solar flares to aging infrastructure.
Cyberattacks have also long been a concern, although a highly organized rifle assault on a San Jose substation in 2014 showed that physical attacks could be just as damaging. Even a simple breakdown in communication procedures was able to spawn a blackout that spread across three states.
Juicy Findings: Now, a new report from the World Energy Council cautions that severe weather caused by climate change is yet another menace faced by grids throughout the world. The report found that floods, storms, and extremes of heat and cold threaten every element of the energy system from power stations to distribution grids to transmission lines—and the number of these threatening events has quadrupled in the past 30 years.
“We are on a path where today’s unlikely events will be tomorrow’s reality,” WEC Secretary General Christopher Frei told The Guardian. “We need to imagine the unlikely. Traditional systems, based on predicted events, no longer operate in isolation.”
Along with the increased likelihood of the weather wreaking havoc on electricity delivery come the increased costs associated with recovering from or adapting to such an event, according to the report. Those impacts will disproportionately affect poorer, less-developed nations.
Not Powerless: The impacts of climate change can be lessened, the report said, but it will take much more money—along with commitment to reducing emissions and industry transparency—to make it happen.
Private investment is key, according to the report, which was coauthored by Swiss Re. The WEC suggests creating an energy resilience framework that will help private investors overcome regulatory obstacles to investing in infrastructure and give them the confidence needed to invest.
With more than $48 trillion needed globally in the next 20 years—an amount that doesn’t include the possible climate impacts—it’s clear that governments won’t be able to support infrastructure upgrades alone, the report said. Viewing energy systems more holistically and taking “smarter not stronger” adaptation measures will not only pave the way for increased investment, it will create as system more ready to weather the coming storms.