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Session 13: Resilient Energy Infrastructure: Energy Security and Sustainability Implications
Tuesday, 30/Aug/2016:
8:30am - 10:00am

Session Chair: Peter BURGHERR, Paul Scherrer Institut (PSI)
Room: Seehorn

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Resilient Energy Infrastructures: Energy Security and Sustainability Implications

Peter BURGHERR1, Robert ROSNER2, Matteo SPADA1, Rebecca LORDAN1,2

1Paul Scherrer Institut (PSI), Switzerland; 2Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago, USA

The concept of resilience was first popularized by Holling’s seminal paper “Resilience and Stability of Ecological Systems”, and since then it has been applied in many different fields and disciplines. Therefore, no universally accepted definition of the term resilience has yet been established. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) of the USA defines resilience as “the ability to prepare and plan for, absorb, recover from, and more successfully adapt to adverse events.” In this way, resilience is not just a buzzword, but also embraces existing concepts such as risk analysis that estimates the threats, vulnerabilities and consequences of adverse events, and risk management that helps the system prepare and plan for adverse events. Finally, resilience management goes one step further by integrating the temporal dimension that is the capacity of a system to absorb and recover from adverse event.

Resilience has received increased attention in the past years by a broad range of stakeholders. The focus of the scientific community has been more on conceptual developments and advancing methods and approaches beyond the current state-of-the-art, whereas industry and authorities have had a strong interest in the operationalization of the concept and its actual implementation in a “real world” context. This requires that components of resilience – physical, informational and social – can all be expressed quantitatively.

This special session aims to provide a comprehensive view on resilient energy infrastructures in the context of energy security and sustainability by providing a conceptual overview presentation of the topic followed by three case study contributions for different application areas and geographical regions. In the first presentation, Burgherr discusses the resilience concept in general and its use in energy systems analysis, followed by an overview of key advancements in recent years, and then concluding with a presentation of selected studies addressing risk assessment and management vs. resilience management. The first case study by Rosner addresses the practicalities of devising resilience for energy infrastructures. Strategies that help to limit damage from, and increase resilience to, attacks on energy infrastructures are compared, and the practical limits imposed by economic and political constraints are discussed. Then, Spada provides a validation of the Swiss National Risk Assessment (NRA) for selected hazard scenarios. Typically in NRA, likelihood and consequence in risk matrices are mainly based upon subjective, qualitative judgments or semi-qualitative approaches relying on experts in the field. Therefore, the validation of an NRA is of great importance to ensure that the analysis of national hazard scenarios results in the implementation of adequate prevention and mitigation strategies. Finally, Lordan investigates the challenges, complexities and trade-offs in the implementation of the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDG). Her case study concerns the political and environmental debates related to the disposal of coal combustion residue (CCR), which are at least as controversial as the very use of coal to produce energy. To improve the sustainability of CCR disposal globally, contrasting market-based approaches taken in the European Union (EU) and the United States (U.S.) to CCR disposal are compared. The broad mix of topics and methodological approaches covered by this special session aims to facilitate exchange and discussion between academia, industry, authorities, and other interested stakeholders, and thus ultimately provide new perspectives to ongoing and/or emerging decision-making and policy formulation processes.

Towards a Safe, Secure and Sustainable Energy Supply: The Role of Resilience in a Holistic and Integrated Framework


Paul Scherrer Institut (PSI), Switzerland

Despite its long history there is no unique and generally agreed definition of the concept of risk. Many of the definitions emerged in the last 30 to 40 years, which also coincides with the development of risk assessment into a quantitative and mature scientific field. The energy sector is one of the key infrastructures in today’s society because on the one hand energy is a necessary prerequisite for most goods and services, and on the other hand there are manifold interdependencies of energy infrastructures with other sectors. Therefore, a comprehensive risk assessment should cover potential impacts on human health, the environment and socio-economic activities. In the past two decades it has been recognized that risks of energy systems should be analyzed in the broader context of sustainability and energy security concerns. This has also important implications with respect to overall system resilience because no single energy technology or energy supply portfolio can meet all sustainability and security of supply criteria; thus tradeoffs are inevitable. These relationships are evaluated in a case study that compares four global supply scenarios, including their sensitivity to selected shocks. In conclusion, there are clear synergies between climate protection goals and a diverse supply mix increasing energy security, indicating the global climate regime scenarios are most resilient.

Resilient Energy Infrastructures: Energy Security and Sustainability Implications

Robert ROSNER1, Peter BURGHERR2, Matteo SPADA2, Rebecca LORDAN3

1The University of Chicago, United States of America; 2Paul Scherrer Institut (PSI), Switzerland; 3The University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, Chicago, USA

It is widely understood that absolute protection for critical energy infrastructures is – as a practical matter – impossible. As a consequence, a key aim of critical infrastructure protection must be to achieve infrastructure resilience, with the level of investments targeted to protect and back up critical infrastructures keyed to analyses of expected risks and the potential human and financial harm incurred if critical infrastructures are in fact successfully attacked and fail. We discuss the roles that probabilistic risk assessment (PRA), ‘defense-in-depth’, and design-basis threat (DBT) analyses can play in achieving levels of infrastructure resilience that are practically and publicly acceptable, using the electric grid as a prototypical illustration.

Towards the Validation of National Risk Assessments against Historical Observations Using a Bayesian Approach: Application to the Swiss Case

Matteo SPADA1, Peter BURGHERR1, Markus HOHL2

1Paul Scherrer Institute, Switzerland; 2Swiss Federal Office for Civil Protection, Switzerland

National Risk Assessment (NRA) studies have recently received increased interest from governments, authorities and other involved stakeholders, e.g., civil protection agencies, emergency planners, etc. The NRA approach combines risk assessment methods and decision-making processes in a structured manner to support the prioritization and management of national hazards and threats. A NRA commonly builds upon an intensive information processing and judgmental exercise, therefore, in a qualitative or semi-quantitative way, requiring the cooperation of experts from various fields. The validation of an NRA is of great importance to ensure that the analysis of national hazard scenarios results in the implementation of adequate preparedness strategies and contingency planning. In this study, a method is developed to verify the accuracy and consistency of establishing risk indicator values by expert elicitation by comparing it against historical experience. The proposed method is based on Bayesian analysis, and is tested in a floods scenario case study for the Swiss NRA. The results for the chosen Swiss NRA case show that scenario-specific assumptions and boundary conditions defined by the experts are not in all cases supported by evaluation of historical experience. Finally, the method proposed here has the advantage to be generic and thus applicable to other risk assessment contexts outside of NRA.

Qualitative Risk Assessment of Coal Combustion Residue Impoundment Closure

Rebecca LORDAN1,2, Matteo SPADA2, Peter BURGHERR2, Robert ROSNER1

1University of Chicago, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, USA; 2Paul Scherrer Institute, Switzerland

What are the risks involved with permanent disposal of coal ash; that is, the "closure" of disposal impoundments? Coal is one of the leading sources of energy globally; commensurately, Coal Combustion Residue (CCR) is the largest industrial waste stream. Typically, CCR collects as it is produced at the coal plant and stored in heaps or large impoundments until final disposal or "closure" of the disposal facility. The storage of this waste, prior to closure, lasts decades and can threaten human health and the environment should, for example, contaminants seep out of impoundments, or worse, should an accident occur (e.g. coal ash dam breach at TVA Kingston Fossil Plant in Tennessee, USA). The management practices of CCR facilities are similar to those of other mine tailings facilities. And, due to a lack in CCR disposal facility data, we draw additional information from tailings facility experience. Like similarly designed tailings disposal units, the closure of CCR impoundments retrofits the storage facility into a final disposal site. In both the CCR and tailings case, the impoundments are expected to remain for 100s to 1000s of years. But, how does the transition from storage to closure mitigate risks associated with CCR storage facilities? Unfortunately, the hazards and uncertainties of neither active nor closed impoundments are entirely understood, and therefore, how well the closure process reduces long-term risks is unclear. Our research characterizes the risks – hazards and the related uncertainties – of CCR disposal using data from U.S. tailings and CCR incidents. In the context of current CCR waste policy debates, we consider the potential hazards to human health and the environment posed both prior to and after closure to understand how different policy options can sustainably manage and regulate waste from producing energy to further enduring resilience.

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