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4.3.3. Reporting obligations for infrastructure providers

In the United Kingdom, the Climate Change Act 2008 introduced reporting obligations on climate change risks. The ‘Adaptation Reporting Power’ (ARP) requires selected infrastructure providers, including those in the energy sector, to report information on the risks and opportunities of climate change (Government of the UK, 2012; Jude et al., 2017). By doing so, the ARP aims to assist these organisations in taking the required action to adapt to the future impacts of climate change, in addition to raising awareness and building capacity (Jude et al., 2017). These reports are then used by public authorities to inform the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment, in addition to supplying updates to the National Adaptation Programme (Energy UK, 2015).

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Under the first round of ARP reporting, the 103 reporting organisations were clustered into nine sectors, four of which were part of the energy system: electricity distributors, electricity generators, electricity transmitters and gas transporters (Government of the UK, 2012). The reporting itself did not follow a specific format, although the affected organisations were obliged to follow the requirements set out in the ARP and Statutory Guidance document to ensure relevant steps were all followed and there was consistency across responses. The reporting process of the ARP was found to impact organisations in various ways. For example, organisations gave greater consideration to the impacts of climate change upon their business, with the reporting process ensuring greater visibility of climate change risks at organisational and board level. The climate change risks identified within the ARP reporting process also stimulated some organisations to develop and enhance their climate risk assessment activities. Several actors were found to have developed their own quantitative risk assessment and monitoring tools, somewhat incentivised by the ARP process (Jude et al., 2017). Further analysis of the value of the ARP to organisations concluded that the process used should reflect differing organisations capacities, should provide for a learning environment and give effective and comprehensive feedback (Street et al., 2017).

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Based on these reports, Energy UK found that most generating companies had made progress in completing actions, with most actions addressing on site flooding and drought impacts on water availability (Energy UK, 2015). Box 4.1 provides additional evidence how TSOs and DSOs in the United Kingdom are adapting their networks to climate change.

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Box 4.1 Adapting the UK power network to climate change

Following the reporting requirements under the UK Climate Change Act, UK energy network providers have released Climate Change Adaptation Reports, which include measures implemented to improve network resilience.

For example, the report by Scottish and Southern Energy Power Distribution (SSEPD) present the climate change risks posed to their network and establishes actions to mitigate these risks over timescales corresponding to the priority of the required action (SSEPD, 2015). Actions on the transmission and distribution systems include:

  •    improving flood resilience through the building of flood walls;
  •    sealing of cables and raising of substations;
  •    initiating discussions on revising standards for overhead lines;
  •    monitoring of climate change impacts and updating projections;
  •    updating the management of trees; and
  •    research into tree-resilient overhead line designs.

The UK’s National Grid, the UK transmission system operator, has also undertaken climate change adaptation assessment and reporting. River floods, storm surges and sea level rise are expected to increase in substantial parts of the British Isles, presenting various threats to the electricity sector. These threats include material damage to substations potentially resulting in power outages and/or fire, as well as loss of temperature control and/or communication failures. To address such threats, the UK’s National Grid is undertaking substation resilience improvements through a prioritised investment programme, using targeted risk assessments and including adaptation activities in its long-term business planning.

A site-based risk assessment using data from the UK Environment Agency on river- and tidal-flood risk identified 47 sub-stations as potentially affected by a once-in-a-century flood, of which 13 were further prioritised based on site surveys and cost-benefit analyses. Such sites underwent various adaptation measures ranging from rebuilding and elevating parts of these substations to drainage diversions. The National Grid has invested £17m (~€19m) at the highest risk sites. Other sites received £136m (~€153m), with completion targeted by 2021. Permanent protection is the main target, but £3m (~€3.39m) were set aside for mobile flood protection equipment. Distribution network companies have expressed appreciation of the benefits of early adaptation responses in order to mitigate future costs (National Grid, 2016).

One example of the success of the programme is provided by the Walham substation. Flooding of this substation in 2007 nearly caused the loss of power to 250 000 people. The site remained operational only due to the installation of a temporary barrier. This temporary barrier was replaced by a concrete flood wall and pumping station in 2012, which prevented any further damage to the substation when flooding of the area occurred again in 2013.

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