With the first U.S. named storm Arthur forming over the Atlantic Ocean, Hurricane season is fast approaching. It’s important to begin planning for energy resilience now. But weather isn’t the only cause of resilience issues. Issues include power surges, natural disasters, accidents, equipment failure and even human operational error. According to research, nearly 75% of organizations are under-prepared for the growing threat of power supply interruption.
We saw this first-hand last year, first in New York then in California.
Last July in New York City the city that never sleeps went dark. The blackout began at 6:47pm, leaving 72,000 customers without power for about 5 hours. Businesses grinded to a halt as thousands of people were trapped in subway cars and elevators. Broadway shows, Carnegie Hall performances and concerts at Madison Square Garden were cancelled as a result. Fortunately, no injuries or fatalities were reported during the outage.
After the NYC blackout, the utility Con Edison warned a heat wave was expected to follow, which would cause more damage and power failures due to high peak demand on the grid. The increased electricity consumption from air conditioners combined with the high temperatures, would cause widespread power outages. Each year, on the last Friday of May, we observe National Heat Awareness Day. Heat waves can be a threatening natural disaster effecting energy supply and businesses.
The outcomes from the blackout could have been much worse. Imagine a patron of your business fell in the darkness while leaving your building, breaking a hip. The damage to your brand and impending law suits could prove costly. Now imagine you had a backup generator to power the lights, allowing everyone to exit your establishment safely.
Then in October, Energy resilience became top of mind for many PG&E customers, when a four-day Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) event left hundreds of thousands of PG&E customers across California without power on short notice. It is estimated to have directly impacted more than two million people. It’s no longer a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.
Ensuring your business is energy resilient helps insulate against outages or fluctuations in supply, becoming critical to maintaining operations and reducing commercial risk.
For sectors such as manufacturing, healthcare, assisted living, hospitality and education, any issue surrounding unstable or failing energy supplies will affect operations, making resilience business-critical. Consider a food manufacturer that experiences a power failure. Their food could be exposed to temperatures outside standard guidelines. If that food makes it to the shelves of the grocery store, only to be recalled later, think of the negative brand implications this could have on their company. Surely the cost of implementing energy resilience would outweigh the loss of sales the brand would experience in this scenario.
We have a back-up generator for the labs. You have to imagine, if we have a power cut, we need to completely restart the labs and it takes 3 hours to get them up and running again.”
Healthcare, Green IT Manager
The first step to being energy resilient involves identifying critical equipment and processes, and assessing the risks. The next steps involve building in resilience where possible. This can vary widely by industry but reducing reliance on the grid or generating on-site power (full time or as a back-up) are options. Depending on your predicted cost of loss of power, you can make a financial decision on the scale of what you need to invest. Lastly, putting a plan in place and making sure the proper functions are trained on executing the plan is critical should the worst happen.
In conclusion, it’s hard to overestimate the importance of energy resilience. By taking charge of your business’ energy resilience strategy, your organization can mitigate threats, avoid disruption and keep ahead of the competition.