Extreme weather cloud hangs over utilities industry, says research

Latest research shows executives believe greenhouse gas emissions have directly contributed to the increase in extreme weather events and that severe weather poses a direct threat to their businesses.

The latest edition of Digitally Enabled Grid Research from global consultancy, Accenture, reveals some startling figures after interviewing more than 200 electricity utility executives across 28 countries in five continents.

The headlines include:

  • 90% of respondents believe extreme weather poses an increased financial risk to their business
  • 92% expect extreme weather events in their location to increase over the next 10 years
  • 95% believe climate change is due to greenhouse gas emissions
  • 73% see extreme weather as a significant challenge to maintain network operations and safety
  • 90% state these weather trends have put the ongoing financial viability of the electrical network business at risk

Despite the high numbers recognising the threat from the weather to their businesses, a significantly smaller number believed their organisations were prepared to managed extreme weather events. With an overall percentage of just 24, the breakdown showed 27% of executives in the Asia Pacific region felt prepared; 24% in North America and just 16% in Europe.

The solution, according the report, is building greater resilience into the networks.

According to Accenture’s global industry Managing Director, Stephanie Jamison: “Greater system flexibility, delivered through digital and emerging technologies, will be critical to optimising grid resilience in a cost-effective and timely manner. For example, active management of available network redundancy, distributed generation and energy storage can help maintain power delivery during severe weather events and speed service restoration after network failures.”

Accenture also stated that building resilience started with effective strategies, pointing out that: “Critically, an effective resilience strategy persuades stakeholders—from regulators to customers—that developing and maintaining the necessary capabilities to handle such events is worth significant upfront, ongoing costs. Stakeholders will need to understand that supporting greater capabilities may not appear to pay off; success means the absence or minimal period of interrupted services.”

The research highlighted a number of key challenges in facing-up to the issues presented by extreme weather events:

  • Enabling greater network flexibility
  • Lack of information on the location, size, specification, and operational state of smaller distributed energy resource installations
  • Lack of industry-wide guidelines and standards

There was, however, some positive news in the report, with some 93% of those surveyed stating that they are already testing solutions for grid resilience. These include advanced protection systems, drone inspections of damage, automated self-healing grids and enhanced vehicle-to-grid technology.