Energy system resilience:
building a future proof power sector



The European power system is facing unrivalled challenges. The Russian invasion of Ukraine has sparked an unprecedented energy crisis. The time is now for decisive action to transition away from imported fossil fuels to a clean, renewable electricity supply where electrification becomes key to regaining our energy independence. However, such progress toward a decarbonised and electrified Europe must come with guarantees on the resilience, security, and reliability of the energy system.

1.5°C by 2030: a dramatic increase in extreme weather events

The latest projections suggest that the world is well on its way to over 1.5°C of warming by 2030 and each season brings further proof that climate change is causing more and more extreme weather events.

Such an increase will affect us all. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projects a rise in extreme heat, fire weather, heavy precipitation, rainfall flooding, sea level rise, coastal flooding, and severe windstorms across Europe. Droughts are expected to increase in the Mediterranean and Western & Central Europe. Meanwhile, heavy precipitation, mean precipitation and rainfall flooding are expected to increase across Northern Europe. Management and planning for these challenges are essential to the energy security of communities and businesses across Europe.

Devastating 1-in-10-year events are becoming more frequent

No Data Found

Source: IPCC AR6 WGI figure SPM.6

All of Europe will experience their effects

The IPCC has identified four zones in Europe where climate change will have a different impact. In the Mediterranean region as well as in Western and Central Europe there will be more frequent droughts, whereas Northern Europe will be increasingly exposed to heavy precipitations and rain flooding.

Meanwhile, all of Europe will experience more extreme heat, fire weather, sea level rise, coastal flooding, and severe windstorms.

Glacier collapse

25k ha burnt in Scandinavia

Storm Arwen, at least 16 deaths

Storm Eunice, £360M damage in UK

39,8° in London

39,9° in Paris

30k ha burnt

200k ha burnt

47° in Pinhão

243 deaths

Glacier collapse, 11 deaths

Pô​ dried-up

5 deaths

125k ha burnt

125k ha burnt

38.4° in Nicosia​

Danube dried-up

Danube dried-up

6 deaths, 200+ injured

From 2021-2022 extreme weather events were experienced across the whole of Europe

Power system assets are exposed

All assets in the electricity value chain are exposed to the effects of this growing number of extreme weather events, from electricity generation and transmission to distribution and the final customer.

Generation assets


Smoke and debris can reduce solar farm output

Interrupts power system and telecommunication connections

Difficult physical access to stations 


Affects wind turbine operation 

Reduced cooling
tower efficiency

Increased air temperature impacts generation capacity and operation

and aridity

Change in water inflows impacts provision of drinking water

Reduce cooling water levels and restrict flow rates

Thermal plants shut down because of insufficient cooling


High winds cause excessive mechanical loading on turbines

Wind turbines shut down to prevent wear and tear

ACC and cooling towers experiencee performance penalties

Mean precipitation and floods

Change in water inflows impacts services such as flood control

Overtopping of hydropower dams

Lower cooling system performance of thermal & nuclear plants

Cold spell, snow, ice and frost

Very low temperatures can affect operation of turbines

Risk of undercooling

Increased pressure on dams and reservoir structures

Transmission and distribution


Power lines disconnected by emergency responders

Burning trees fall on grid infrastructure


Loss of load due to
reduced grid capacity & overheating transformers

Hot spots in cable insulation and isolation failure

and aridity

Postponed maintenance or repair due to working conditions

Increase in underground grid fault rate


Loss of remote system control, mountain lines become difficult to reach

Lines damaged by falling trees, Distribution towers collapse

Mean precipitation and floods

Loss of interconnection lines

Landslides weaken infrastructure foundations

Cold spell, snow, ice and frost

Avalanche risks for transmission towers

Conductors broken by icing or snow sleeves

Europe must become better prepared

More adaptation measures needed for a warming continent

Extreme weather dominates power crisis scenarios

While cyber and physical threats also feature, extreme weather events clearly dominate ENTSO-E's ranking of the most likely and most severe scenarios facing the electricity sector

The power system already has a host of adaptation measures available for the management of climate hazards. These include physical hardening and uprating of networks, physical protection measures, additional water spill gates for hydropower dams, resizing of thermal and nuclear plant cooling systems, additional redundancy of grid design, preparedness planning, backup systems, and digital tools to enhance visibility and management of the energy system down to low power voltage levels. 

Adaptation measures for generation assets


Mature methods to forecast, handle and react to inflow variations.

Additional spill gates to prevent overtopping.

Trash racks and spill gates can be heated.

Facilitating the natural creation of a solid ice cover on the river.

Adapt to icing during the design stage.

The design of hydropower plants must account for their whole life cycle.

Wind & solar

Wind & solar plants are well equipped to adapt to climate change.

The increased prevalence of these technologies requires storage, thermal, flexibility and interconnection back-up.

Standard operational temperatures could be extended beyond the current -30°C to 40°C range, if cold or hot climate countries wish to incorporate more wind energy.

Thermal and nuclear

Regularly reassess the level of climate change hazard, resize cooling systems, and review operating practices.

The design of thermal & nuclear plants must account for their whole life cycle.

More precise climate projections give plant designers and investors greater confidence in future performance. 

Adaptation measures of transmission and distribution assets in Europe

Cold spell, snow, ice and frost

Adoption of mechanical fuses to reduce conductor breakages.

Provision of alternative power network paths (network meshing, back feeding for laterals with many customers).

Extreme heat and drought

Remote control, grid automation and digitalisation to promptly reconfigure and restore the network.

Remote control to isolate only the faulted network.

Severe storms

Planning of network according to the “n-1” standard with alternative back feeds available in the event of damage. 

“Meshing” of network should be considered where feasible. 

Design of overhead lines to account for increased wind speeds and icing, also considering vegetation management.

Pluvial and coastal floodings

Flood risk assessment must be carried out to ensure assets

are well placed and sufficiently protected.

Coordination with local authorities to help ensure a coherent approach to flood risk assessment.

Invest now to avoid higher costs later

Eurelectric’s Connecting the Dots report estimated that €33 billion would be required in the decade 2020-2030 to support distribution system resilience. Notably, this figure predates the higher ambitions of the REPowerEU plan, so the necessary energy system resilience investments need to be scaled up appropriately and must be complemented by investments in generation and storage.

Resilience is a growing component of grid investment

Source: DSOs and national associations; Monitor Deloitte

Such funds are critical to the realisation of Europe’s electrification and decarbonisation objectives. Investment in growing the system share of renewable energy sources, with lower wholesale prices, and the flexibility opportunities provided by new technologies and services, will reduce Europe’s dependence on imported gas. Connecting the Dots estimated that the net increase in customers’ bills arising from distribution investments should amount to only 1,5% per annum. 

As standard policy, regulators should promote investment in grid resilience and promote a Resilience Incentive Mechanism to stimulate the uptake of adaptation measures and smart grid technologies like smart meters and automation. Such a program by design would enhance the reliability of a clean, distributed energy system and reduce the possibility of disruptions.

An integrated approach to climate change

Tackle adaptation and mitigation together

It is clear today that mitigation and adaptation can no longer be tackled in silos. A failure to reach energy decarbonisation goals could result in increased adaptation costs in the long term, and a failure to adapt to climate change could be devastating for the European economy. Indeed, the price of inaction now far outweighs the cost of building sustainable, resilient communities. Nowhere is this truer than regarding Europe’s crucial electricity infrastructure.

Conversely, the benefits of such a reinforced system will reverberate through society by acting as a solid foundation for the widespread electrification of transport, heating and cooling, and industrial processes and the integration of renewable and clean energy sources. This, in turn, will benefit mitigation by reducing direct emissions and adaptation by facilitating the flexibility of the grid. The latter then lowers costs for final customers by reducing demand peaks and the need for expensive hardening of the grid.

Countries need to better anticipate risks

No Data Found

Source: Climate Resilience Policy Indicator, IEA member and association countries, May 2021

The cost of doing nothing, while climate change provokes more extreme weather events, will be felt throughout all of society and quickly outstrip the investment needs of a digitalised and modernised energy system.

Increase coordination to strengthen resilience

An energy policy framework that boosts coordination and communication between all power sector stakeholders is needed. These stakeholders are heavily interdependent, both between themselves and external parties such as suppliers and telecom providers.

  • To improve the implementation of the Risk Preparedness Regulation, where each competent national authority must establish a risk-preparedness management plan, it is vital that grid operators and market actors are effectively consulted.
  • Given the exposure of energy system assets, this same attitude of cooperation must also be applied to the proposed Resilience of Critical Entities Directive (CER).
  • Strong coordination also means consistent and transparent methodologies for assessing climate risk and informing resilience strategies so that both utilities and external stakeholders have confidence in the solutions applied
  • An integrated approach that brings together national climate adaptation plans and market actors’ investment projections is key to securing the resources needed to construct a truly resilient grid.

Eurelectric overarching recommendations

Consider adaptation in partnership with mitigation
Take a holistic view to ensure stronger coordination and continuous communication between all stakeholders  
The regulatory framework for system operators, taxonomy screening criteria for private investments and resilience funding must encourage power system climate adaptation 

Policy Recommendations

European Commission

Re-organise EU climate adaptation funding 

Involve all energy sector stakeholders in climate adaptation  

Electricity market design needs to consider its effect on the resilience of the power system 

Flexibility market design should go hand in hand with physical system design 

National Regulatory Authorities

Incentivise resilience investments 

Integrate national climate adaptation plans and company investment plans 

Digital investments by system operators should be remunerated and incentivised  

Best Practices for utilities

EPRI served as a technical advisor, and did not verify all statements in this report, with its contributions limited exclusively to providing technical and historical perspective(s) to Eurelectric. EPRI is an independent, non-profit energy research and development organization. Any and all policy or advocacy
statements or recommendations expressed or conveyed in this report are attributable solely to Eurelectric and do not reflect the opinions of EPRI, its
members, or affiliates.