How to increase grid resilience through targeted investments

Author

Paolo D'Aprile

Source(s)
McKinsey & Company
Electric line personnel conduct maintenance work on power lines
Pratan/Shutterstock

Improving the stability of today’s electric grids requires careful planning by stakeholders across the value chain. Regulations related to resilience are changing to meet new and evolving challenges. Therefore, chief technical officers (CTOs) and asset managers of both transmission-system operators (TSOs) and distribution-system operators (DSOs) are responding with plans of their own, optimally taking structured, methodological approaches to implementing resilience strategies.

That said, many operators lack accurate ways of measuring and quantifying the risk of extreme weather events. Our research shows that climate risk and resilience modeling can provide operators with the necessary information to make the right calls at the right moments in time. This article provides a five-step methodology to model climate-change resilience. Doing so can help grid operators, OEMs, utilities, and regulators steer the ship during the storm, ensuring that customers aren’t left in the dark.

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A recent McKinsey study shows that adapting to climate change is critical to avoid significant physical and socioeconomic hazards. Even so, extreme weather events have already had an impact on the activities and services of electric-grid operators and the economy as a whole. The examples keep coming: in 2017, more than 3.6 gigawatts of power in the United States was at risk during Hurricane Harvey. One year later, Italy’s Storm Vaia caused more than €2.8 billion in economic losses. And in February 2020, during Germany’s Storm Sabine (“Ciara” to the rest of the world), wind power made up 60 percent of the country’s electricity generation; during the storm, strong gusts of wind caused the wind turbines to switch off, creating considerable stress on grid stability.

Over the past few decades, changes in climate and concomitant extreme weather events have increased in frequency. Such events can directly affect power grids in ways that are often difficult to predict and respond to. Floodwaters can damage underground transformers, and powerful storms can cause utility poles to buckle or trees to fall onto power lines. Recent rolling blackouts in Texas were caused by frozen instruments. Similarly, extreme cold weather in Western Europe caused frequency deviations that could have damaged the entire European network. Events of this magnitude result not only in significant costs for operators but also in quality issues for consumers and even interruptions to industrial sites and important supply-chain hubs (see sidebar “Physical risk vectors for electric grids”).

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