The importance of power grid resilience. How to address it through decarbonisation.

The importance of power grid resilience. How to address it through decarbonisation.

The negative consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic are innumerable, be they health, economic, technological, or social. However, once much of the storm has already passed, we can learn and improve our society from it. Using this idea as a starting point, the Catalonian Energy Research Centre (IREC) collectively with researchers from of the Group of Construction Research and Innovation of the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC -GRIC) launched the project ComMit-20 with the aim of establishing the long and short-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic concerning energy consumption, changes in usage patterns, and increased indoor environmental quality requirements in buildings.

Even though it is certain that one of the main impacts of COVID-19 was on city wellbeing and health, the power grid system has not been an exception from the pandemic’s impacts.  Confinements and changes in consumption patterns put the grid system to the test, such as increased electricity demand in urban areas that did not have sufficient capacity to supply it. Consequently, the grid had to adapt to scenarios that may have seemed impossible before. This critical and unprecedented situation brought to the table once again one of the most studied characteristics of electricity grids in recent years: power grid resilience.

Until a few years ago, there was no distinction between the reliability and resilience power grid and in fact, both concepts referred to similar meanings. However, their differentiation appeared due to the necessity to address high-impact-low-probability (HILP) events, in other words, occasionally events capable of massively damaging the system. Moreover, three different hazard events are analyzed in the field of power grid resilience:

  • Sudden changes in the use of the network infrastructure (e.g., the paradigm caused by the Covid-19 pandemic).
  • Catastrophic weather events (being more and more severe because of climate change).
  • Cyberattacks.

Considering these three aspects, and within the framework of ComMit-20, IREC has been focused on making the electricity grid more resilient to HILP events, which are expected to increase their frequency and make the grid more vulnerable. As a part of the task, a study on the resilience of Barcelona’s electricity grid was conducted, with the aim of analyzing long-term impacts of HILP events. As an example, simulations of disruptive scenarios for 500-years flood scenarios were carried out using technical data of the power grid and socio-economic data of Barcelona to give it a more multi-perspective view.

The results obtained from the study showed that almost 20% of the city’s substations would have a moderate or higher probability of failure, which could lead to a cascading breakdown of the system. Moreover, the impact of this catastrophic weather event would not be uniform across the city, and some neighborhoods would be more susceptible to flooding.

One possible solution to mitigate those impacts and increase the power grid resilience would be the installation of renewable energies in those risk areas. This adaptive measure would help compensate for that energy not delivered in those points where the grid could fail, and at the same time, it would help to decarbonise the city and to reach the net-zero scenario. In this way, this measure would not only mitigate the impacts of the event, but also help adapt to climate change by decreasing the frequency of occurrence of those events.

Provisional framework for business vulnerability assessment to decarbonization pathways

Provisional framework for business vulnerability assessment to decarbonization pathways

Inspired by the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Assessment Reports (IPCC AR5 and AR6), LOCALISED developed its business vulnerability assessment framework to reflect the latest knowledge in the field of climate change risk assessment.

Using the IPCC Risk Framework, the risk imposed by decarbonization pathways to regional businesses and industries can be calculated through a circular process starting with the identification of hazard as a set of environmental, economic, and social changes induced by the pathways. The vulnerability then will be calculated along different dimensions such as energy demand, labour, raw materials, demand, supply, logistics, final output, emissions, and the geographic location of the business entity.

This framework allows LOCALISED to investigate the impact of downscaled decarbonization pathways on businesses and industries in terms of their exposure to direct and indirect changes in their environment, emissions, energy input, supply of raw material, and demand. Businesses may choose to respond differently to such changes depending on their sensitivity and vulnerability.

LOCALISED is in the process of identifying and engaging with key business stakeholders in order to co-design the vulnerability index tailored to the needs and ambitions of each business sector. The vulnerability assessment helps businesses in identifying their sensitivities and strengths compared to their peers and to pave the way for strengthening their competitiveness.

First national decarbonization pathways ready to develop and testing the downscalling approach

First national decarbonization pathways ready to develop and testing the downscalling approach

LOCALISED achieved an important milestone with the simulation of three country-level decarbonization pathways – see Costa (2022). The results will now feed into developing and testing our downscaling methodology.

Using the EUCalculator model the demand for services, production and energy technology deployment previously published in decarbonization pathways for Portugal, France and Germany were closely matched for their evolution by 2050 – see example in Table 1. This allows the project to estimate in a consistent manner – across the countries – the material, resources and technical challenges associated with decarbonization. With intra-country comparison achieved by the usage of a common energy model, the project will now move forward on building and testing a downscalling methodology that translates the national-level results to the municipality scale.

Table 1: Key assumptions on activities and technology deployment for the transport sector contained in the French National Low-Carbon Strategy (SNBC 2050) and their reproduction by the EUCalculator model.

Why is downscalling important? Because the practical challenges of implementing mitigation actions and technology deployment truly materializes at spatial levels much lower than those considered in energy models defining national pathways. A case in  point is the transformation needed in the building sector. To be aligned with the evaluated national pathway (see  ARIADNE 2045), by 2050 circa 80% of the current standing building stock in Germany needs to undergo on substantial energy renovations – see Figure 1 derived from results in Costa (2022).

Figure 1: Energy-renovation efforts for the existing building stock of Germany aligned with the ARIADNE 2045 transformational pathway and calculated by the EUCalculator model.

While this trajectory is indicative of national effort, local efforts for building renovation across Germany will be heterogenous and shaped by local aspects influencing cost-effectivnes of renovation such as building age, building type or usage (Staniaszek et al. 2015). 

A more spatially-dissagregated view on the renovation effort will enable municipalities to have a frist-order approximation of the local effort in building renovation with the guarantee that it is aligned with the national pathway. Keep tuned as details on the downscalling methodology will follow soon.

(1) In the EUCalculator model these refer to the choices of ambition levels from 1 to 4 equating to past trends to transformational change, more details on model and ambition description please refer to Costa et al, 2021.

The partner MAGGS promotes Educational campaign and green & blue investments in schools

The partner MAGGS promotes Educational campaign and green & blue investments in schools

Educational campaign and green & blue investments in schools

“Climate in the Schools of Metropolis” is the biggest educational project carried out in the Metropolitan Area Gdańsk-Gdynia-Sopot regions (MAGGS), project partner of LOCALISED. As many as 40 schools participate in it, both from large cities such as Gdynia, Gdańsk, Tczew, Malbork, Rumia, and small towns like  Kłodawa, Bielkówko, Dębogórze czy Linia. Green and blue investments will be built on the premises of each of the schools submitted for the project. Schools can choose from: a box rain garden, a ground rain garden, an infiltration basin, a composter or a green wall.

“Small retention facilities mimic nature in collecting, clearing and delaying rainwater runoff. They are an important element of counteracting the effects of climate change, so their creation in schools will not only be functional, but also educational” says dr Wojciech Szpakowski, technical director at the municipal company Gdańskie Wody, which is the project partner.

As part of the projects teachers of nature, biology or geography will be trained, they will also receive necessary teaching materials. Each school will also receive seedlings and tools for additional planting. We will also invite students to participate in the competition “Let’s protect the metropolitan environment”. Activities in schools are complemented by a social campaign aimed at informing about climate change and sudden weather phenomena (torrential rains, droughts).

As part of the information and education activities, the LOCALISED partner MAGGS will organize press conferences and educational films, advertising spots, brochures and information leaflets will also be created. Project “Climate in the Schools of Metropolis” will last three years. MAGGS implements it in cooperation with the content partner Gdańskie Wody and the foreign partner International Development Norway.

IEA UsersTCP: Gender & Energy

IEA UsersTCP: Gender & Energy

Empowering all: Gender in policy and implementation for achieving transitions to sustainable energy

When it comes to energy infrastructures and energy use, the role of gender has been highly underestimated. Despite the evidence that social values, norms, and practices directly impact policy developments, energy innovations and use, there is insufficient research as well as solutions addressing gender biases in energy. While some argue that energy and climate policies are gender-neutral, studies highlight that they are relatively gender-blind (Clancy & Roehr, 2003; Khamati-Njenga & Clancy, 2002; Terry, 2009). 

Through international collaboration with researchers from the field of gender and energy from 7 Countries, the UsersTCP AnnexEmpowering all gathers state-of-the-art research on gender and energy use, identifies best practices, analyzes energy policies and technologies from gender perspectives, provides recommendations for a more efficient and inclusive policy design and implementation, supports ongoing efforts to design inclusive and gender-sensitive energy technologies. The duration of this project is three years, from 1 January 2021 to 31 December 2023.

This Annex is divided into the following three subtasks, and ÖGUT is involved in all of them. 

  1. For researchers – Subtask 1 aims to fill the knowledge gap. It deals with gathering existing research on energy, gender, and energy use, and reviews the state-of-the-art to identify best practices. Additionally, the literature is examined to further understand the ways energy policy and planning, grant directives, and interventions shape energy consumption in different countries. ÖGUT contributes to this subtask by focusing on literature and documents, particularly from the German-speaking countries.
  2. For policy makers and regulators – Subtask 2 analyzes the values and norms embedded in energy policies, their implementation by different governments, as well as the rationale behind the energy interventions by the private sector. The goal is to grasp how these diverse value systems and norms interact and counter each other. Furthermore, a comparative policy assessment tool is developed and tested for the evaluation of national policies on energy use and gender. Within this framework, ÖGUT is conducting intersectional policy analysis on the Austrian Energy and Climate Action Plan as well as evaluating the policy tool and supporting its adaptation.
  3. For businesses – Subtask 3 is centered on the collaboration with designers and developers within the energy sector, and user organizations to develop guidelines and prototypes for inclusive, gender-sensitive and efficient energy interventions at different stages such as early steps of technology development, data collection methods, user interfaces, user management, etc. The deliverables of this subtask will be factsheets, new templates for gathering user data, and prototypes for inclusive design. For this subtask, ÖGUT is responsible for developing and testing factsheets on inclusive and participatory design targeted at energy technology developers and carrying out a case study on the inclusiveness of an Austrian Energy Platform.

Author

Austrian Society for Environment and Technology (ÖGUT), Azadeh Badieijaryani and Beatrix Hausner.

References

Clancy, J., & Roehr, U. (2003). Gender and energy: Is there a Northern perspective? Energy for Sustainable Development, 7(3), 44–49. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0973-0826(08)60364-6

Khamati-Njenga, B., & Clancy, J. (2002). Concepts and issues in gender and energy. ENERGIA. Leusden, The Netherlands: ENERGIA.

Terry, G. (Ed.). (2009). Climate change and gender justice. Practical Action Pub.

Photo credit

UsersTCP Newsletter

 

Further resources

The Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its relevance for LOCALISED

The Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its relevance for LOCALISED

The Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its relevance for LOCALISED

Within the last two months the IPCC published two of its most recent assessment reports: The Working Group II Contribution on Impacts and Adaptation, and the Working Group III Contribution on Mitigation.

The WGII concludes that widespread disruption in nature already affects the lives of billions of people around the world, despite efforts to reduce the risks. People and ecosystems least able to cope are being hardest hit; “a dire warning about the consequences of inaction,” said Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC.

The world faces unavoidable multiple climate hazards over the next two decades even if global warming is halted at 1.5°C. Temporarily exceeding this warming level will result in additional severe impacts, some of which irreversible. Risks for society will increase, including to infrastructure and low-lying coastal settlements. “The AR6 WGII Contribution emphasizes the urgency of immediate and more ambitious action to address climate risks. Half measures are no longer an option.” said Hoesung Lee.

Given that there is urgency for more action tools are needed to speed up mitigation and adaptation along a broad coalition of authorities, citizens and businesses. With that the IPCC has underlined the relevance of the LOCALISED objectives, which is to develop useful tools for a decarbonisation of the European regions and localities until 2050 and the remaining adaptation need.

Whereas the IPCC lists and reviews options to adapt to a changing climate, there is the recognition that current efforts are insufficient, uneven, or even detrimental—pointing to the need of focusing more on the effectiveness, feasibility, and side-effects of measures—all, sub-objectives of the LOCALISED project. Climate change further interacts in a complex interplay with global trends such as unsustainable use of natural resources, growing urbanization, social inequalities, losses and damages from extreme events and a pandemic, jeopardizing future development. This complexity is where LOCALISED can make an additional significant contribution, calculating regionally-relevant solutions to optimally reach net-zero  along with the remaining adaptation needs for European regions and localities, including authorities, businesses and individuals.

Our assessment clearly shows that tackling all these different challenges involves everyone – governments, the private sector, civil society – working together to prioritize risk reduction, as well as equity and justice, in decision-making and investment,” said IPCC Working Group II Co-Chair Debra Roberts. “Cities bear the potential of having direct influence and jurisdictional power on their land in many countries, meaning that the complexity of decision-making for adaptation can be tested, and if need be course-corrected in a relative short period of time. Cities and regions are therefore perfect testbeds for climate action with the additional advantage of being showcases for their hinterlands”, said Diana Reckien, Coordinating Lead Author for Chapter 17, and a LOCALISED team member.

Providing detailed information for local and regional authorities on how they can best implement climate action to stay within the limits of warming of 1.5degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels is therefore more important than ever.

Authors of the article: Diana Reckien

Photo credit: Chuttersnap-04 on Unsplash