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Cyber, climate resilience key to power system security in transition: IEA

Highlights

Power systems essential for energy transition

System security brings many challenges

Renewables integration key for networks

London — The electricity sector is undergoing its most dramatic transformation with electrification calling for a more comprehensive approach to system security to meet evolving challenges such as cyber threats, extreme weather events and rapidly growing renewables, the International Energy Agency said in a report Oct. 27.

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The report, Power Systems in Transition, examines three key areas of future security, offering recommendations for addressing them that support the acceleration of energy transitions globally, it said.

"Energy security is at the heart of the IEA's mission because it is critical for social well-being, economic prosperity and successful clean energy transitions," IEA executive director Fatih Birol said, adding that "electricity is essential for the functioning of modern societies...and for bringing down global emissions."

The report was launched at the IEA's global ministerial conference on system integration of renewables, co-hosted Oct. 27 by the IEA and the Singapore government.

Electricity accounts for one-fifth of global energy consumption today, and could surpass oil as the world's largest energy source by 2040 under the IEA's Sustainable Development Scenario.

Wind and solar's share of global electricity generation would rise from 7% to 45% in that scenario.

Many countries today enjoy a high level of electricity security thanks to centrally controlled systems, relatively simple supply chains, and power plants that can supply electricity whenever needed, but developments are now radically changing the sector and with it the security model that has prevailed for the past century, the IEA said.

The challenge for governments and utilities is to update policies, regulations and market designs to ensure that power systems remain secure throughout clean energy transitions, it said.

Cyberattacks, extreme weather

While the full prevention of cyberattacks is not possible, electricity systems can become more cyber resilient – to withstand, adapt to and rapidly recover from incidents and attacks while preserving the continuity of critical infrastructure operations, it said.

Policy makers, regulators, utilities and equipment providers must play key roles to ensure cyber resilience of the entire electricity value chain.

The effects of climate change mean that electricity systems need to become more resilient to the impacts of changing weather patterns, rising sea levels and more extreme weather events, it added.

The report identifies best practices and lessons learned from around the globe. It also provides a set of recommendations for institutional frameworks that establish clear responsibilities, incentives and rules; measures to identify, manage and mitigate risks; and protocols to monitor progress, respond and recover.

"This report is the reference manual for policy-making on electricity security now and for years to come," Birol said.

Case study: German blackouts at record low

Meanwhile, Germany's utility association BDEW on Oct. 27 highlighted the investment required into power and gas grid infrastructure due to the energy transition that had already transformed Germany over the past decade.

Europe's biggest economy invested Eur74 billion ($88 billion) from 2009 to 2018 into its power and gas grid with annual spending doubling over the decade.

The majority was spend on power grids. Investments are increasing with an estimated Eur11 billion spend in 2019.

"Grid investment brings security of supply and adds to value creation for the economy," BDEW managing director Kerstin Andrea said noting a number of measures required to improve finance frameworks.

Interruptions in Germany's electricity supply were at their lowest in 2019 on records dating back to 2006, grid regulator BNetzA said Oct. 22.

The average interruption time per connected end-consumer fell to 12.20 minutes per year, down by 1.71 minutes compared to 2018.

"The energy transition and the increasing share of decentralized generation capacity continue to have no negative impact on the quality of power supply," the grid regulator said in the annual report with data based on SAIDI (System Average Interruption Duration Index), which is conducted in a similar way in other countries. Germany ranks among the countries with the highest power supply security in the world, it said.