Disaster management and resilience in electric power systems

Lead Research Organisation: University of Manchester
Department Name: Electrical and Electronic Engineering


Electricity infrastructure is key to sustain human and economic wellbeing since it supplies energy to industrial, commercial and financial sectors, critical services (health, traffic control, water supply), communication networks, and hence almost all activities in modern societies. Consequently, the effects of long electricity blackouts have demonstrated impacts on economic activities and social stability and security. A framework for disaster management and resilience of the power sector is needed, beyond the occurrence of "average" outages contemplated in current security standards. This framework should consider network management under the occurrence of natural hazards such as earthquakes and tsunamis that may cause major blackouts, and assess proper measures to manage the associated disasters. Developing and implementing such a framework will be crucial to increase the opportunities for Chile and other countries, especially developing and low-income ones located around the Pacific Ring of Fire which are particularly exposed to the risk of earthquakes and tsunamis.

In this context, this project will undertake holistic risk analyses associated with natural hazards on electricity networks along with identification of mitigation and adaptation measures that can allow us to manage the arising disasters. This holistic perspective of disaster management and resilience will be supported by development of mathematical models to, firstly, assess risks related to high impact low probability events, such as earthquakes and tsunamis, on the electric power systems. These models will then serve to identify an optimal portfolio of preventive and corrective measures that can support mitigation of impacts and compare different adaptation strategies. In particular, besides classical infrastructure reinforcement, we will assess how operational measures for disaster management, for instance though distributed energy systems, e.g., based on communities and microgrids, can provide system resilience.

Building on this last point, resilience can in fact also be built through citizens and communities and by how they prepare for, and respond to, power outages. Such preparedness could for instance be led by the electricity companies and targeted at the individual and community levels by sharing accountability for response across the official responders, local officials, community groups, individual citizens, and the electricity companies. The aim is for households to have response strategies that are complemented by resilience measures prepared for (and by) the community. Such shared responsibility is becoming the response culture in the UK (with the very recent recognition of spontaneous volunteers as a source of untrained, unknown support which converges at the time of an incident). In developing countries, where the capacity of official responders may be insufficient given the scale of the disaster, the reliance on community preparedness and spontaneous emergence of willing helpers is more acute to lessen the effects of an incident and quicken the return to normality. Thus, in addition to more technical features, the framework developed here will explicitly include community resilience as a way to lessen the impact of outages and manage disasters.

By analysing several case studies in Chile based on both data from past experiences and simulations, we will propose a general framework for disaster management and network and community resilience which can be applicable to other developing and low-income countries. We will use the research findings to develop networks standards following disasters along with a standard on community resilience to power outages. These standards will include socio-economic and engineering indicators that can support monitoring of network resilience and readiness to withstand natural, catastrophic events as well as quantifying impacts of such events after they occur, enhancing quality of post-mortem analysing

Planned Impact

In order to maximise this proposal's impacts, a well-proven team of researchers and partners have been engaged who have already worked together in previous projects, including between UK and Chile. Partners who will benefit from our project and are associated to the Chilean Government and other relevant associations include the Ministry of Energy, EEAG, Consejo Minero, ACERA and AGG. At the international level, and in order to far reach to other developing countries, we have also engaged with ARUP, who (with the Rockerfeller Foundation) are leading a major "resilient cities" project across about 100 countries, and a university partner such as Teknikal Malaysia Melaka. In this outlook, we have also partnered with the International Standards Organisation (ISO) to ensure transfer of results into practical impact through Standards development, especially for developing countries. Our researchers from PUC have main roles in the Chilean CIGIDEN (The National Research Centre for Integrated Natural Disaster Management - funded by Conicyt), which is also a partner and will highly benefit from our findings. Policy makers and regulators/society, system operators, strategic consultants and standard-setting bodies (including our partners Chilean Ministry of Energy, Chilean regulatory offices (CNE and SEC), CDEC-SING and CDEC-SIC, Arup, Pwc, and ISO) will benefit from our results to (i) understand the fragility of strategic infrastructure and risk exposure of the electricity sector and society to natural hazards, and hence (ii) develop a framework for disaster management and resilience with (theoretically) proven mitigation and adaptation actions. Investigators from this proposal have extensively worked with the Chilean and UK Governments and thus understand how to harmonise current policy objectives of the country with the work that will be done under this proposal. For example, the letter of support from PwC signals the relevance of this topic to the UK Cabinet Office, with which we have excellent ongoing links. Energy producers and transporters (including our partners ENAP, Valhala, Colbun, AGG and ACERA) will also be impacted by our work, by gaining a clearer understanding of (i) their exposure to risks due to natural hazards, (ii) measures that can help to reduce risk exposure and economic losses, and (iii) their level of participation (according to technology type: renewables, hydro pumped storage, thermal generation, distributed generation, etc.) in an array of actions to support electricity systems to withstand catastrophic, natural hazards. The proposed work may also lead to recognition of such support through a formal regulatory and commercial framework that increases revenue streams to those technologies that can provide security services under catastrophic events, promoting new innovative technologies and solutions that can contribute to resilience. Large and small consumers, including communities with their own electricity generation (e.g. our partners EEAG, Consejo Minero, Codelco), will benefit from our results to understand their risk exposure, economic losses and mitigation actions when high impact earthquakes and tsunamis occur, as well as their potentially key role in supporting the main system through community based energy systems and demand side distributed resources (e.g. backup generators from large consumers and/or distribution companies, or small energy storage systems such as batteries). Our work will also inform on the potential to develop microgrids in specific areas subject to risk. Academia and research centres (in primis our partners CIGIDEN, Centro de Energia, Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka, SERC, and the IEEE International Practices Subcommittee) will benefit from our cutting edge interdisciplinary research. There will also be further beneficiaries associated with our dissemination activities in terms of students, professionals, and general interested public like, for instance, ONGs.


10 25 50