Changes in our climate are leading to more frequent extreme weather events. This presents an increasing risk that our community may be exposed to prolonged power outages due to weather related damage to our network.
We understand that these unplanned outages have major impacts on our customers’ lives and livelihoods, so we want to work with the community to find a solution.
Our network covers a diverse geographical area, and different areas are exposed to different climate risks. Some areas are expected to experience more storms, while others might be exposed to hotter weather or bushfires.
A warming climate means that extreme weather events are projected to increase in both frequency and intensity. The extent and timing of these risks have a degree of uncertainty, and we need to consider this uncertainty when assessing potential resilience solutions we can implement. Not only do different areas experience different weather, some areas recover from extreme weather events more easily than others. Typically, more vulnerable communities find it harder to recover from the impacts of extreme weather events – unfortunately, some of Ausgrid’s more vulnerable communities are also those most exposed to the growing climate risk.
To determine the right approach to take, we have designed with our customers a Resilience Framework; the framework will help us work with local communities to make targeted investments to mitigate the risk of extreme weather events.
The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) defines resilience as “a performance characteristic of a network and its supporting systems (e.g., emergency response processes, etc.). It is the network’s ability to continue to adequately provide network services and recover those services when subjected to disruptive events”.
Ausgrid understands this to mean:
We are working out the best way to prepare our network and communities to withstand more extreme weather scenarios before, during, and after an event.
We are engaging with local communities on how we can build climate resilience in their areas. In our engagement to date, building resilience against the impacts of climate change is a unanimous priority across our communities.
Customers think we should take action to assist those in areas most at risk from extreme weather to address the predicted increase in the frequency and length of outages. They want us to prioritise innovation and investments to build climate resilience in these high-risk areas and to prioritise those who are most vulnerable.
As we plan for our future, we are researching and engaging with communities on how best to invest in a more resilient and secure network. We will consider both scientific evidence and our customers’ preferences to identify the most cost-effective and impactful locations to invest in within our network area.
In 2022, we partnered with our customer advocacy group, the Ausgrid Reset Customer Panel, to produce a co-designed Resilience Framework titled 'Promoting the long-term interests of consumers in a changing climate: A decision-making framework (the Framework)'.
The framework communicates how we intend to build resilience and respond to the risks and impacts of extreme weather events.
Download a copy of the Ausgrid Decision Making Framework to find out more about our proposed resilience activities.
In January 2023 Ausgrid submitted our initial Regulatory Proposal for 2024-2029 to the AER, this was shaped by our customers and included our plans to work with local communities to improve their resilience. During 2023, we will be working with our various community engagement forums to prioritise the proposed resilience activities in the Plan using the Framework prioritisation principles and ensure that the portfolio meets customers’ expectations and willingness to pay.
Ausgrid is conducting community trials of new technology and listening to customer feedback to determine the right approach and technology to minimise the impacts of extreme weather events on our communities. We are also working with the Merriwa community to trial a small network of power generation, storage and technologies to deliver more resilient, reliable local power supply.
As we refine our plans for 2024-2029, we are working with local communities to refine the proposed resilience activities to submit to the Australian Energy Regulator for approval. We will begin with three pilot areas which have been selected because of the increasing threat of storms and the potential impact these storms could have on the network and the broader community in those areas.
In 2023, we will begin working with communities in Port Stephens, the Central Coast and Lake Macquarie to assess the effectiveness of our response to climate change. We will share the plans we develop with these communities with the broader community and with the regulator.
We’re trialling innovative technology in Merriwa to deliver a more responsive, resilient and reliable power supply.
We're investing in a microgrid trial as part of our commitment to supporting local people and communities during planned and unplanned outages.
A microgrid is a small network of power generation, storage and control technologies that are designed to supply a small group of consumers with electricity while operating independently of the central grid. A microgrid can operate autonomously, supplied by energy sources like solar generation, battery storage and diesel power, when power supply from the main grid is disrupted by extreme weather events or is otherwise unavailable.
Find out more about the project and how you can provide feedback at yoursay.ausgrid.com.au/merriwamicrogrid.
In March 2022, Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy and Resilient Sydney facilitated a workshop for NSW councils to understand what our communities need and want when it comes to withstanding climate change impacts. The workshop resulted in a report which details feedback from the community on a number of focus areas, including what communities need during a prolonged outage and where the local government and the electricity sector can further invest in resilience.
In February 2022, Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy, Essential Energy, Evoenergy, TasNetworks and NT Power & Water hosted a forum with over 170 attendees from various backgrounds and relations to the energy sector to discuss how, over the next 10 years, DNSPs can best support the communities they serve in adapting to a changing climate and how to ensure the network is able to recover or react faster during a major event. The findings of these discussions informed the writing of the 2024-2029 Regulatory Reset Proposal and ongoing discussions with regulators and government and customer advocates.
The Voice of Community (VoC) Panel was established to help us understand our customers’ short-term needs and long-term priorities for the future of the grid. The panel included those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, life support customers, customers experiencing vulnerable circumstances including those who have challenges paying their bills, renters, young adults and customers who experience outages and supply issues.
The Panel sessions took place between February and June 2022; participants were asked to provide their thoughts on how Ausgrid should “plan for the future while being fair to customers today” and, over the course of eight sessions, delved deeply into the trade-offs at the heart of the Regulatory Reset around topics including Net Zero, climate change, cyber attacks, and future innovation and technology.
Ausgrid intertwined the Panel’s deliberations with the insights from other customers by first giving Panel members these customers’ perspectives at the start of the process, and then testing the Panel’s draft recommendations with the wider group of customers before concluding. The final recommendations have shaped our plans for 2024-29.
Climate Council Article 27/1/21 - Hitting Home: The Compounding Costs of Climate Inaction