As states in the southeast U.S. brace for hurricane season, Canada battles wildfires, and Texas sits under a heat dome during a summer that is anticipated to be warmer than average, the importance of resilience and reliability in the electric sector is top of mind. Now is a good time to reflect on the work accomplished and underway as we mark the one-year anniversary of EPRI’s Climate READi (REsilience and ADaptation initiative).
Climate READi launched last year to develop a common framework to assess infrastructure vulnerability and the necessary investments to withstand extreme weather events and a changing climate. When complete in 2025, the Framework is intended to embody one of the most robust, integrated approaches to physical climate risk assessment for the power industry.
Proactive resilience and adaptation planning is a strategy to prevent future damage to the power system. It requires a forward-looking mindset to implement investment decisions today. This can include changing design criteria to reflect the range of conditions an asset could be exposed to over its expected lifecycle.
Proactive adaptation can also be financially advantageous for asset owners and operators, helping to avoid higher costs for response, repair, and recovery after adverse weather events. One recent study analyzed in a recent Climate READi white paper, Costs and Benefits of Proactive Climate Adaptation in the Electric Sector, showed proactive investments in resilience and reliability could generate a 50% savings in repair costs to energy systems between now and the end of the century. This translates into a savings of more than $7 billion annually.
During its first year, Climate READi has quickly grown from 14 founding members to more than 40 member companies across the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, and France, as well as more than 60 stakeholder participants. The industry seeks to establish a comprehensive, consistent, and collaborative approach to mitigate physical climate risk, ensure resilient energy infrastructure, and enable robust planning for the years and decades ahead.
Global problems require global collaboration. Under Climate READi, in addition to the electric sector, participation has included organizations such as the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Canada’s Energy and Utility Regulators (CAMPUT), and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC). Plus, numerous national labs, representing various geographical areas, are participating in creating this framework.
Workstreams include physical climate data and guidance, energy system asset vulnerability assessment, and resilience and adaptation planning and prioritization. Since launch, the team has completed a literature review that highlights research gaps in valuing, measuring, and modeling resilience. It has published 15 deliverables, including the first three modules of Climate 101 training and READi Insights contextualizing of extreme cold and extreme heat weather events.
Insights from READi offer awareness into how extreme weather events may impact the energy system. Extreme weather, like extreme cold and heat, can pose numerous challenges to power system operations and load forecasting. For example, electricity loads in the winter are likely to increase as home heating and transportation demands switch from fossil fuels to electricity, potentially adding stress to the power system. Or, extreme heat can interact with drought, accelerating wildfire risk.
To ensure analysis and application of climate data and resulting operational or investment decisions are the most relevant, EPRI encourages additional participation in Climate READi. Climate and extreme weather are increasingly impacting energy infrastructure, and the future value of resilience is only going to increase. Looking ahead to Climate READi’s second year, the team anticipates completing guidance for selection and application of climate data in power system applications, critical asset identification, and a climate data assessment and inventory.
The time to address the challenges of extreme weather and climate change is now. Energy customers depend on reliable power, and communities need it to sustain critical services. It’s also important that that same reliable power is also affordable. Holistic planning can result in the application of adaptation strategies to support a more robust, equitable, and cost-efficient power system for the communities that rely on it.