Research Handbooks in Environmental Law series
Edited by Jonathan Verschuuren
Chapter 15: Climate change adaptation and electricity infrastructure
The threats of climate change to electricity infrastructure have been well documented and may be considered in terms of climatic variables, impacts and implications. The climate variables include: increase in intensity of extreme wind; increased frequency and intensity of storms and bushfires; increases in temperature, number of hot days and electrical storms; and decrease in rainfall. The impacts are predicted to be: damage to transmission and distribution above-ground assets resulting in increased blackouts; reduced network capacity along with accelerated deterioration of assets; and an increase in the number and length of blackouts due to electricity demand exceeding supply. The implications considered as economic impacts include: increased capital and maintenance expenditure on electricity transmission and distribution infrastructure; increased demand for skilled staff leading to shortages in this area; short-term lost revenue to transmission and distribution companies; accelerated depreciation and deterioration of assets; and increased power prices to consumers. Additional demand-side implications, particularly in developed economies, include: community security risk; increased insurance costs as a result of business and food loss; traffic congestion/ accidents/no traffic lights and short term unemployment leading to hindered emergency responses; train service disruption; life support/ health risks; deterioration in quality of home life and building services disruption including elevators and lifts. This chapter sets out the scientific case for legal and technology adaptation responses in the electricity infrastructure sector in the face of climate extremes and disasters. It proposes the adoption of the Smart Grid as one of the technological adaptation measures and relies on the experience of the Queensland flood disasters in Australia in 2010
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