Mark Gibbs writes in The Conversation (5.10.16) about the lessons for the energy sector, and for other essential service providers, from the power blackout across South Australia in the wake of recent devastating storms.
‘Last week’s storm and subsequent state-wide blackout in South Australia reminds us how important the electricity grid – and other infrastructure – is for our communities.
‘Immediate analysis suggests the blackout was caused by the collapse of transmission infrastructure in South Australia. Australian electricity networks, like most transmission networks worldwide, rely on above-ground conducting wires held aloft by large towers. Some of these towers were blown over in the South Australian event.
‘While the storm hasn’t yet been specifically linked to climate change, it also serves as a reminder of the increasing challenges of delivering essential services in a more variable climate and slowing economy.
‘Power, water, transport, health, defence and communications infrastructure can be exposed to climate variability and change simply because of their long lifetimes. Therefore, many if not most owners and operators of essential infrastructure have commissioned climate vulnerability and adaptation studies.
‘There are many good examples of adaptation. For instance, Queensland Urban Utilities, the major water distributor and retailer in south-east Queensland, is implementing a large program to make the water and wastewater delivery network more resilient to flooding.
‘But there is increasing recognition among climate adaptation researchers that many of the recommendations from climate adaptation studies aren’t being adopted. This is sometimes referred to as the “plan and forget” approach to climate adaptation and it leaves critical infrastructure vulnerable to weather extremes.’