Building Resiliency in the Global Energy Transition

MARCH 24, 2023 / ENERGY

The worldwide demand for electrical energy is increasing as communities grow and seek to improve their quality of life. As these energy needs increase, the effects of climate change impact the day-to-day operations of existing energy infrastructure assets and influence the adoption of new energy generation sources and transmission. Existing energy infrastructure assets require adaptations that build resiliency to increasingly severe and frequent weather extremes resulting from climate change. Future power generation projects must be able to endure the effects of our changing climate and be evaluated against their lifecycle carbon emissions.

Here at BGC, our Energy Sector Team’s core purpose is to support the global energy transition by applying geoscience knowledge to help our clients make risk-informed decisions for their electricity generation, transmission, or distribution assets. We provide innovative risk-based engineering and geoscience services to support climate change adaptation of existing infrastructure assets and climate change resiliency for new infrastructure.

Existing energy infrastructure

There are both short- and long-term impacts on energy infrastructure from climate change-related processes. Climate change is altering the timing of freshets, driving drier or wetter seasons, and causing more intense storms and weather extremes that can lead to wildfires, drought or flooding, debris flows, and landslides. These impacts can cause severe economic consequences for infrastructure owners such as extensive infrastructure retrofits to adapt to severe climate variability or stranded assets. We support our clients to improve their infrastructure reliance through geohazard risk management, engineering geology, earth observation, and climatology skills and services.  

The energy transition, new facilities, and emissions targets

The energy transition is shaping future power generation requirements with a move toward the construction of zero or low-carbon sources, by extending the life of existing low-carbon energy sources and decommissioning or retrofitting of existing carbon-intensive power generation and associated infrastructure. We are seeing an increase in the construction of new transmission and distribution systems to connect new generation facilities in locations where low-carbon energy is available to where power is needed (population centres, industrial sites, etc.). Efforts to improve grid reliability through an increase in investigation or construction and installation of energy storage infrastructure are also becoming more commonplace. Examples of these include storage assets such as battery centres or pumped hydro systems.

Building resiliency

By harnessing our geoscience expertise, BGC is working to improve the power generation and distribution sector’s resiliency. Building climate change resiliency into the electricity generation industry involves several key aspects such as reducing the vulnerability of individual asset components and asset groups from both the short- and long-term direct effects of climate change. Examples include power generation facility design enhancements to mitigate climate change impacts, retrofit of hydro facility spillways to accommodate larger flood capacities or transmission line improvements that account for geohazards resulting from a changing climate.

The current centralized power generation and transmission systems are transitioning toward a decentralized generation and distribution network system. At present, most electrical power is generated by large generation plants (i.e., large hydro, coal or gas-fired plants, or nuclear) and distributed to end users. This spoke and wheel type system is prone to disruption and capacity limitations relative to a distributed power generation network. On-site client-operated renewable energy production through wind, solar, geothermal, micronuclear, or run-of-river hydropower systems can be engineered and scaled to meet client demand without reliance on the existing power grid. Construction of new electrical power generation, transmission storage, and retrofitting of existing infrastructure can also be designed to meet increasing demands and higher peak loads during extreme weather events.

Mitigation

Beyond the construction of zero-emissions electricity sources for client operations, options such as incorporating wind and/or solar farms into a mine closure plan or the closure of a community landfill can help our clients generate revenue even after the primary land use has ended. As more zero-carbon electricity generation is fed into the grid, the demand for carbon-based production diminishes, providing a way for BGC and our clients to contribute to the mitigation of climate change.

BGC is dedicated to helping our clients better understand the risks they face from the natural environment allowing them to make proactive, informed decisions to address the risks and increase community resilience. Interested in finding out how? Contact our Climate Change Team.

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