Perspectives on Resilience from NCSE Fall Interns

January, 2019

Jackson Carr, NCSE Fall 2018 Energy Intern
Sophie Adams, NCSE Fall 2018 Membership Intern

Defining Resilience in Local Energy Systems

Jackson Carr, NCSE Fall 2018 Energy Intern

Within an energy system, resilience broadly refers to the capacity and ability to maintain the provision of adequate energy service. This begins with the maintenance of the energy grid under severe, adverse conditions. With a consistent rise in power outages due to severe weather throughout the twenty-first century, ensuring the reliability of the grid under the worst of conditions remains at the heart of energy resilience. [1]

Resilience goes further than simply ensuring the strength of our primary energy infrastructure. True energy resilience means maintaining the provision of energy when the conventional energy delivery systems are down. One step towards this goal has been a recent emphasis upon the development of microgrids, which allow interconnected groups of distributed energy resources to operate with or without connection to the greater energy grid. Properly integrated microgrids can provide power to key sectors in the case of major grid failure, allowing hospitals and defense bases to continue operations during serious emergencies. States at the forefront of energy resilience have been funding local deployment of microgrids to strengthen critical public infrastructure, while campus utility systems across the nation now feature the ability to “island” and independently power their facilities during extreme weather events.

Storm clouds roll in over a city


Flooding occurs in a city


Energy storage is another integral aspect in answering the question of resilience. As grid operators continue to integrate new energy sources into their power systems, battery energy storage systems promote more effective use of these resources. With solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind energy becoming increasingly popular options for utility-scale electricity generation, connected energy storage systems can ensure efficient delivery of energy during times of off-peak production. Storage system investments further address the issue of power grid outages, as battery energy storage allows buildings to take advantage of reserve power when needed, and offset the overall costs of outages. With the majority of grid disruptions coming at the distribution, rather than generation level, distribution improvements and customer protection measures have proven to be the most valuable and cost-effective resilience measures. [2]

Above all else, resilience relies on cooperation. Grid innovation is a burdensome process which requires public support and constant collaboration between relevant stakeholders. It is crucial for utility operators, regulators, and other vital public actors to be on the same page regarding the merits of grid resilience efforts, as well as the enormous costs that can be avoided by acting proactively. Regulations encouraging microgrid development, requirements for energy storage capacity, and continued diversification of energy sources have allowed states and localities to effectively address the issue of grid resilience in recent years.


[1] Kenward, Alyson (2014). Blackout: Extreme Weather, Climate Change and Power Outages, Climate Central, 3.

[2] Silverstein, Alison (2018). A Customer-focused Framework for Electric System Resilience, Grid Strategies LLC, 18.


Resiliency Work by NCSE Member Institutions

Sophie Adams, NCSE Fall 2018 Membership Intern

College campuses are unique areas. With student populations ranging from a few thousand to numbers similar to that of a small town, each campus has an influence on the external community. If a university chooses to employ more sustainability focused learning, research, and policies, the potential for a more engaged sustainable community is limitless. Universities that use their resources to join forces with local government, businesses, and citizens amplify the impacts of their work. The topic of resilience and sustainable infrastructure within these integrated communities has become a necessary component for a more sustainable future, and universities, including NCSE member institutions, are leading the conversation.

The Institute of Transportation Studies at University of California, Davis (UC Davis) is the leading university center in the world on sustainable transportation. While working to educate the students of UC Davis in low-carbon transportation possibilities, the Institute also provides the industry with the tools needed to estimate consumer demands for advanced vehicles and fuels and helps to inform decision-making in federal and state policy. In 2017, the National Center for Sustainable Transportation (a research center within the Institute) collaborated with the University of California Pavement Research Center and the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute to identify the roadblocks preventing the implementation of permeable pavements that would aid significantly in stormwater quality, transportation, and flood control issues. [1] A later discussion between stakeholders in the project resulted in the creation of 10 proposed routes that provided direction on how to implement these permeable pavements within the community. This guideline allows for planners to consider all types of permeable pavements with more credibility in the future. [1]

The Center for Environmental Law & Policy at Yale University (YCELP) is a cooperative center between Yale Law School and Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. A current project involves the United Nations Secretary General’s Climate Resilience Initiative called Anticipate, Absorb, Reshape (A2R). A2R focuses on reinforcing climate resilience within African communities that are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Through providing accessible insurance and incentives to invest in emergency planning and response, A2R aims to anticipate climate hazards through early action systems, absorb the impacts from climate hazards, and reshape the way communities are able to prepare and respond. [2] YCELP’s role in this initiative has been to supply research on anticipatory management systems, risk-transfer, and social protection mechanisms in response to climatic events, and any existing climate resiliency efforts in least developed countries, small island developing states, and Africa. [3]

The position that a university holds within a society requires a level of active participation in the world outside the campus. UC Davis and Yale are two of the many NCSE member institutions that are taking advantage of the opportunities stemming from community engagement. These research initiatives exemplify institutional leadership and foster the advancement of sustainability-based education and resilience in the global community.


[1] Harvey, John T. and David R. Smith (2018). Final Report: Permeable Pavement Road Map Workshop and Proposed Road Map for Permeable Pavement. Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis, Research Report UCD-ITS-RR-18-21.

[2] African Risk Capacity (ARC) (2017). Fact Sheet: Accelerating Action to Resilience. ARC, Sovereign Disaster Risk Solutions.

[3] Dale, Lisa, Barney Dickson and Elina Vӓӓnӓnen (2017). Briefing Paper: Anticipate, Absorb, Reshape: Current Progress on Three Capacities for Climate Resilience. UN Climate Resilience Initiative: Anticipate, Absorb, Reshape.