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Resilient energy systems in the built environment

April 2020: Extreme weather events challenge the resilience of energy systems in the built environment and can lead to a higher frequency of costly partial or total blackouts. Researchers recommend increasing adaptive capacities and mitigation efforts for exiting systems and focussing on energy resilience during urban planning.

Information

Extreme weather events such as droughts, storms and heat waves are occurring with higher frequencies and projections suggest that extreme weather events will become commonplace in many locations. This may impact the resilience of energy systems, particularly in the built environment. Generally, buildings have different energy needs such as heating or cooling. Due to climate change induced long term changes of the outdoor environment and changing energy needs during short term extreme weather events, current energy systems may face challenges in adapting to evolving energy needs. In addition, weather conditions can equally influence energy supply and challenge reliable power generation from hydro, solar, and wind turbines during extreme weather.

Implications and opportunities

Climate change may expose local energy systems and increase vulnerability to partial of total blackouts during extreme weather events. Such climate variability could create a 34% gap between energy generation and demand and a 16% drop in power supply reliability which can cause severe disruptions, particularly for buildings such as hospitals and businesses. Researchers are calling for increased efforts to scale up adaptive capacities and climate change mitigation efforts. Increasing adaptive capacities could include stabilising renewable energy systems during extreme weather events, increasing energy storage capacities up and down the supply chain, retrofitting existing energy systems, diversifying the geographic footprint of energy-generation, and increased policy guidance to encourage the design of resilient energy systems during urban planning processes.

Limitations

Further research will be needed to develop energy resilient measures at the local level and all measures should be seen within the context of local polices, and local energy supply and demand capacities.


Sources

Perera, A. T., et.al. (2020). Quantifying the impacts of climate change and extreme climate events on energy systems. Nature Energy, 5 (2): 150. DOI: 10.1038/s41560-020-0558-0

UNEP. (2020). Transforming the energy system—a post-COVID-19 win-win for people and planet. Retrieved from: https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/transforming-energy-system-post-covid-19-win-win-people-and-planet

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The views expressed in these external research papers are those of the authors and do not represent an official position of CISL, the University of Cambridge, or any of its individual business partners or clients.