It’s hurricane season in the U.S., which runs from June 1 through the end of November, and there have already been three named storms. The most recent was Tropical Storm Christobal, which was the earliest third-named Atlantic storm on record when it formed on June 2. It made landfall in the U.S. along the northern Gulf Coast on June 7, with heavy rain, a storm surge of almost six feet, and a few tornadoes.
“Irrespective of which part of the world you belong to, we are seeing the impact of severe weather across the globe,” Amol Sabnis, global lead for Transmission and Distribution with Accenture, said as a guest on The POWER Podcast. “One thing is clear—that the severe weather events are becoming a recurring global event.”
Accenture recently released a report titled “From Reliability to Resilience: Confronting the Challenges of Extreme Weather,” which included insight gleaned from a survey of more than 200 C-suite and senior vice president-level executives at electric utilities spread across 28 countries. “We conducted this research to better understand the risks posed by increased frequency of extreme weather and how we can help our clients navigate these challenges by building a more resilient network,” Sabnis said.
The findings from the study are eye-opening. Nearly nine out of 10 executives surveyed said extreme weather events had grown in frequency, severity, or duration over the past 10 years. Furthermore, more than nine out of 10 expect extreme weather events to increase over the next 10 years. Yet, less than a quarter of the executives felt well-prepared to manage the challenges of extreme weather events.
“One of the things that we found in our research is that nearly every utility considers resilience as a matter of focus,” said Jason Teckenbrock, North American lead for Transmission and Distribution with Accenture, who was also a guest on podcast. “So, even if they’re not fully prepared, they know they need to focus on it.”
Teckenbrock suggested that there are three steps utilities can take to improve resiliency. They can harden their networks, improve restoration effectiveness, and/or develop greater system flexibility. However, network hardening is costly, and improving restoration effectiveness takes time to implement and can require significant procedural changes. Therefore, the most cost-effective approach for enhancing resilience in many scenarios is developing greater system flexibility.
Some ways flexibility can be improved include creating automated self-healing grids and incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) to help route electricity in a more appropriate manner. AI can also be used to conduct vegetation management assessments and to identify other risks.
“We’ve seen lots of utilities starting to work on this,” Teckenbrock said. “We believe that taking a metric-based approach is important here.”
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—Aaron Larson is POWER’s executive editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine).