Innovations in energy system climate adaptation
Project Description

Extreme weather events and other effects of climate change require the adaptation of energy systems to maintain service reliability. One approach to adaptation is to improve siting decisions and deploy energy infrastructure only in low-risk locations, but this approach cannot be applied to existing infrastructure and faces constraints in densely populated areas. Another strategy is to improve the flexibility and resilience of energy system components by adopting new or improved technology. Such ‘adaptation innovations’ include easy-to-install flood protection walls, novel approaches to freeze protection in natural gas pipelines, simulation tools to predict failure modes of offshore wind turbines during hurricanes, replacement of steel utility distribution poles with fiberglass reinforced polymer composite poles, or mobile substations. However, little information exists on the degree to which different stakeholders in energy systems (electric utilities, grid operators, governments, technology vendors) already develop and implement adaptation innovations, and the types of innovations they pursue.
Due to the inherently location-specific nature of extreme weather and its impacts on infrastructure systems, adaptation innovations not only involve new hardware, but also new processes to improve disaster preparedness in the context of specific regional challenges. While new hardware is more easily standardized and can be shipped to wherever it is needed, process innovations may require dedicated efforts to codify associated knowledge and transfer innovations across locations. Better characterizing the nature of hardware and non-hardware adaptation innovations is therefore important to help prepare diverse locations for a changing climate.

KLEMUN Magdalena
Course type
Applicant's Roles

This project develops a database of specific adaptation innovations that are currently under development or already implemented by energy system stakeholders, focusing initially on power grid hardening and then expanding to other energy infrastructures. Innovations will be characterized based on whether they focus on improving hardware or services, the type of infrastructure they improve, the climate impacts they are meant to protect against, where they emerged (e.g., countries, or private vs. public research and development), and whether they were originally developed for climate adaptation or repurposed. Specific research questions and techniques can be tailored to student interests. Research activities include data collection, database construction, and communication with industry and public sector experts.

Applicant's Learning Objectives

This project offers an opportunity to learn about climate adaptation efforts and gain hands-on experience in the study of technology innovation. Students will learn about
different ways to conceptualize and classify technology innovations, strengths and limitations of data sources used in the study of innovation (patent data, journal papers, grey literature), and ways to address data limitations and explore policy implications.

Complexity of the project