As we get into the dog days of summer and turn our air conditioners full blast, the last thing on our minds is whether our energy providers can handle the surge in energy use. Power outages are inconvenient for customers, but are also a serious public health and safety risk, and can have long term negative impacts on economic activity, energy distribution rates, public and customer confidence, and distributor reputation. Climate change has upped the stakes for energy distributors to increase the resiliency of their services, but are they rising to the challenge?
To answer that question, QUEST, a non-profit organization that conducts research, engagement and advocacy to advance smart energy communities in Canada, released the report “Resilient Pipes and Wires.” The study examines the level of awareness among electric, natural gas and thermal energy distributors in Canada about adapting to climate change, as well as the policy drivers and barriers to enhancing the resiliency of energy services. Recommendations are provided for how energy distributors can enhance resiliency through adapting their infrastructure, operations, organizational structure and communications to address climate change risks.
I had the pleasure of contributing to this report through participating in working sessions and providing expertise in areas of outage management and smart energy enablement. While the report focuses on Canadian energy distributors, the findings are relevant for utilities around the world since weather-related events such as high winds, heavy precipitation, flooding and storm surges, extreme extended cold and heat waves have no geographic boundaries.
Resilient energy distribution is important not only for ensuring the health and welfare of our cities and communities, but also for advancing smart energy communities, which improve energy efficiency, enhance reliability, cut costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is the first blog in a three part series about the report. Stay tuned next week for more on the findings and recommendations for how energy distributors can plan for, and respond to, outages.