RESEARCH REPORT

In brief

In brief

  • Accenture's Digitally Enabled Grid research explores the impacts of increasing extreme weather, and how greater resilience can confront the challenge.
  • We found utilities around the world recognize the serious operational and financial impacts, but few are very well-prepared to deal with them.
  • Three strategic imperatives can help utilities develop an effective resilience strategy, offering added system flexibility against extreme weather.
  • Creating greater resilience is more important than ever within the context of the current pandemic crisis.


Extreme weather: Utilities at a tipping point

High-impact weather events are becoming more frequent and severe around the world. Regular, mid-tier events such as heavy rainstorms, high winds and seasonal flooding are also increasing in number. These two trends in combination are ratcheting up operational stress on transmission and distribution utilities. And utility executives around the world know it: 92% of the more than 200 respondents we surveyed as part of our Digitally Enabled Grid research expect extreme weather events to increase, and 83% see this trend as a threat to grid stability.

For years, electric utilities focused largely on grid reliability, however, that approach alone has become inadequate for utilities and for society at large, especially when one considers the bigger picture. When a utility is facing extreme weather and a secondary event, such as cyber-attacks, earthquakes, geomagnetic storms, warfare, wildfires, and, as we now see, pandemics such as COVID-19 occurs, the situation can quickly move from bad to worse. While utilities clearly understand the risks, few are very well-prepared to deal with the impacts of extreme weather.

9 out of 10

Utility executives see extreme weather events as posing an increasing potential risk to ongoing financial viability of the network business.

95%

Utility executives believe climate change due to greenhouse gas emissions has been a contributing factor to extreme weather.

24%

Utility executives feel very well-prepared to manage the challenges of extreme weather.

A resilience strategy prepares utilities to handle and quickly recover from more frequent and severe disruptive events, whether from extreme weather, cyber, earthquake or—indeed—a pandemic. Far from shifting the focus away from reliability, it seeks to verify that utilities can expand their definition of reliability while also developing the additional, supporting capabilities they will need to provide an elastic response in the face of stressed or extreme conditions.

The complicating factor is that resilience is, to date, something of an amorphous concept in the electric utility distribution business.

An effective resilience strategy readies utility businesses to bounce back quickly from major and even multiple events and makes the case for proactive investment and maintenance.

Developing an effective resilience strategy

The first step is to establish a firm technical basis for resilience, while also developing the additional supporting capabilities needed to provide an adaptable response in the face of extreme conditions.

Critically, an effective resilience strategy persuades stakeholders—from regulators to customers—that developing and maintaining the necessary capabilities to handle such events is worth significant upfront, ongoing costs. Stakeholders will need to understand that supporting greater capabilities may not appear to pay off; success means the absence or minimal period of interrupted services.

Homing in on three strategic imperatives will help executives develop greater resilience.

Establish the foundations of resilience

  • Develop leadership in resilience within and outside the business.
  • Underpin investment and performance targets with clear regulatory mechanisms based on risk and societal value of resilience.
  • Develop a robust quantitative basis for resilience risk analysis and investment decision making.

Build the resilient network

  • Build new system flexibility capabilities through digital solution deployment.
  • Utilize artificial intelligence and emerging technologies to enhance outage prediction and system restoration strategies.

Explore emerging resilience services

  • Support the utilization of end-user resilience solutions.
  • Develop differentiated network resilience solutions to support poorly served communities and those with high resilience requirements.

RELATED: Follow the Accenture Utilities blog for trends and perspectives

Resilience as a Remit

The challenge of becoming more resilient may be formidable, but it is also unavoidable. Those utilities that do not act now are putting their organizations—and their customers—in jeopardy.

Start now by considering the big picture. Use the three elements of resilience—the foundations, the network and emerging solutions—to map out and execute your own resilience strategy.

Supporting resilience more directly is a significant part of the industry's growth trajectory. Utilities must convince policymakers, customers and other stakeholders to make resilience part of the businesses' remit.

Get the essentials

The Digitally Enabled Grid research identifies actions T&D utility businesses can take to increase resilience against extreme weather events.

The Big Read

45 minute read

From reliability to resilience for extreme weather

This year’s digitally enabled grid research focuses on how greater resilience can help utilities confront the growing challenges of extreme weather.

VIEW FULL REPORT

Short on Time

Executive summary

15 minute read

Learn how to create greater resilience in your transmission and distribution business.

VIEW

Meet the team

Subscription Center
Stay in the Know with Our Newsletter Stay in the Know with Our Newsletter