Energy resilience in a connected world

Energy is critical to our daily lives. Increased integration and complexity mean ensuring energy systems are resilient has never been more challenging.

Arup’s Energy Resilience Framework can diagnose – for any energy system – where challenges and opportunities for improvement lie.

Energy is critical to our daily lives. As complexity and interconnectivity grow, ensuring the resilience of energy systems becomes ever harder. Arup’s Energy Resilience Framework can diagnose – for any energy system – where challenges and opportunities for improvement lie.

Lightening forking behind a set of electricity pylons

Are your systems resilient?

With energy, transport and communications increasingly interconnected, minor problems can have a big impact. Around the world, energy systems face a host of shocks and stresses from technology to climate change and many other factors in between. These scenarios threaten to disrupt energy systems – and the lives of the people who rely on them.

As an energy producer, supplier, user or supply chain investor, do you know how resilient your business and energy systems are to these challenges? How can you get the information you need now, to make informed decisions about the future?


11 goals for achieving energy resilience

To help you answer these questions, Arup has developed the Energy Resilience Framework. The framework can diagnose where resilience performance meets best practice, and where challenges and opportunities for improvement lie.

Resilience is much more than technology or thinking singularly about one disruptive factor. As climate change events become more frequent and we transition to a digital world, the time is now to future-proof for resilience.

Comprised of three dimensions and underpinned by 11 goals, the framework explores leadership and strategy, economic and societal value as well as the physical infrastructure and its ecosystems and how to achieve the goals.

Infrastructure and ecosystems

Leadership and strategy

Choices must be made about how to sustain supply and reduce the potential for disruption. This will require a long-term focus on the future and the expected evolution of the energy sector, a predisposition towards innovation, as well as a clear understanding of the tolerance for risk.

Programmes that address the standard of energy supply, such as sustainability, quality or affordability will require alignment and collaboration with resilience becoming a key project success criteria. Coordination across interdependent sectors - government, academia, planners, owners and operators - and the promotion of lessons learned and best practice will be vital.

Regulation is essential for safeguarding the public and users’ interests. Clear directives for balancing the energy trilemma - security, sustainability and affordability - are needed to ensure energy systems improve, longer term goals are set, and the system is resilient. Mechanisms for enforcing these guidelines are paramount for an effective regulatory framework that fosters resilient systems.

Smart home diagram

Economy and society

Collaboration with end users is of ever increasing importance. Active consumers provide a better understanding of real requirements and ensure decision making is more robust. Increasing community engagement, defining clear and effective methods of communication, enabling and allowing two-way data sharing will all aid in achieving this.

Sustainable financial environments increase certainty and protect energy stakeholders. Clearly defining strategies to protect and safeguard stakeholders from financial risks, as well detailed contingency planning for unmitigable risk will all contribute to creating a stable financial environment.

A standard energy supply chain - generation, transmission, distribution and retail - tends to be fragmented and relies on independent but interconnected organisations. To build a resilient system, they need to work together to create one single system. This can be effectively achieved through ownership of roles and responsibilities, integrated planning and effective communication.

Even stable and resilient systems may fail due to exceptional unavoidable shocks and stresses. Having predefined, tested plans for response and recovery makes a significant difference to how severely an event affects a system. A resilient system has proactive, flexible and integrated approaches to identifying threats, responding to the failure and recovering the system.

Solar panels and pylons will be core elements of energy resilience

Infrastructure and ecosystems

Best-practice approaches to infrastructure management are needed. This will require ensuring staff possess or can develop the right skills and the increased utilisation of digital systems to improve the monitoring and management of key assets. Effective cyber security will be crucial.

Integrated and adaptive planning aligns efforts towards a common goal and ensures they sufficiently address the uncertainty in emerging challenges. This approach increases the system’s flexibility and ability to respond to a potentially critical change.

Communities rely on energy to function, but some components of the system are more important than others to survivability. Developing an asset prioritisation strategy is vital in ensuring this, as will be the consideration of special investment criteria for critical assets to ensure effective redundancy.

Mechanisms for improving some of the resilient qualities of an energy system can actually increase the risk exposure of the system, such as the climate impact of using fossil fuels for electricity capacity management. To ensure solutions are effective, sustainability factors must be considered. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals provide an excellent benchmark. Actions must align with the goals or, at the very least, not undermine them.

Applying the framework: South Australia blackout

As the world relies more a variety of energy sources, systems need to be prepared for disruptive factors which could result in serious consequences. In September 2016, we saw this happen.

Tornadoes with wind speeds up to 260 km/h occurred in South Australia. These damaged major transmission lines, wind farms stopped working and an interconnector was disconnected. The energy system collapsed within seconds, plunging the entire state of South Australia - 1.7m people – into darkness.

Using our Energy Resilience Framework, we have mapped out the events of the 2016 blackout. We’ve explored existing practices, post-disruption investigations as well as recommendations from the official report, whilst outlining how Arup’s 11 resilience goals can help avoid a similar situation.

Download the case study

Protect your future with the Energy Resilience Framework

We’re seeing more significant and disruptive energy events happen across the world – now is the time to embed resilience in your energy systems.

Arup’s Energy Resilience Framework has been designed to diagnose where the challenges and opportunities lie. Whether you generate, supply or consume, our framework can help you improve resilience and define and prioritise actions.

Contact us

Alan Thomson
Alan Thomson
Global Energy Leader
[email protected]
+44 20 7636 1531