Leaders in large corporations, government agencies, and other organizations face numerous challenges in running their day-to-day operations. For them, energy – the lifeblood of many organizations – has historically been seen as reliable, and occasional power outages considered an inevitable cost of doing business. However, these same organizations are starting to view energy and the associated risks and opportunities in a new light as power outages continue to impact their organizations and as new energy innovations make it to market.
In recent years, major weather events, such as hurricanes and wildfires, have exposed vulnerabilities in our energy system that have left many without power for days or weeks, exacting a high cost in terms of lost productivity and quality of life. The sheer number of disturbances in the U.S. electrical system has grown over the past two decades, as shown in the chart below, due to weather, physical attacks and vandalism, equipment malfunctions, cyberattacks, and other causes.
The continued aging of grid infrastructure in the U.S., compounded by a lack of investment in new systems, will only lead to greater downtime; in fact, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the U.S. electrical grid a rating of D+ in its 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, asserting that “Americans will likely experience longer and more frequent power interruptions” in the future.
Moreover, climate change will certainly increase the risks faced by organizations as major weather events become stronger and more frequent.
These challenges, however, have emerged concurrently with a paradigm shift in organizations’ ability to leverage their own infrastructure and energy assets to manage and mitigate these risks. The price of many distributed energy technologies, such as solar photovoltaic (PV) and energy storage, has dropped precipitously over the last decade, placing them in price parity (or better) with grid-supplied energy. Utility regulators and lawmakers across North America continue to move away from the traditional centralized utility business model by introducing new policies that allow customers to build and control their own energy infrastructure. And new financing instruments can reduce organizations’ dependence on capital or taxpayer funds to pay for important infrastructure upgrades and shift risks to lenders and solutions providers, thereby allowing organizations to focus on their core missions.
This white paper explores ways in which government agencies, companies, and other organizations can leverage their energy infrastructure to minimize the adverse impacts of major events – in other words, to become more resilient. To date, much of the interest in resiliency has been limited to a few key sectors; however, as addressed throughout this white paper, a wide range of organizations, public and private, are beginning to understand that they can use their energy infrastructure to become more resilient in budget-sensitive ways. With a smart approach
to resiliency that integrates innovative technological solutions, contracting structures, and participation in broader energy markets, organizations can often become more resilient in ways that fit within their existing capital and operating budgets for energy and infrastructure in order to better achieve their long-term missions and values.