Critical National Infrastructure resilience against pandemics and climate change

Bringing together expertise from across the University of Sussex, the Sussex Energy Group (SEG) and SSRP, the project aims to improve the resilience of critical national infrastructure (CNI) to existential threats such as pandemics or climate change.

Overview

Recent research activity and external engagement highlighted the risk of Covid-19 to power network operation, and the need for climate adaptation of infrastructure. Expertise from across at least four Schools (Engineering and Informatics, Mathematical and Physical Sciences, Business, Global Studies), the Sussex Energy Group (SEG) and SSRP can bring great synergies in the field of critical infrastructure. The aim of this project therefore is firstly to scope the development of a critical infrastructure interest group at Sussex and secondly produce policy and technical recommendations for infrastructure resilience definitions and stress tests for climate adaptation and infectious diseases.

  • Sustainable Development Goals

    This project examined the following SDGs:

    SDG 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy
    SDG 9  Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
    SDG 11 – Sustainable Cities and Communities
    SDG 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production

    Find out more about the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Project description

Climate change will certainly have impacts, but the scale of those impacts is still uncertain. Infrastructure systems can face significant disruption by adverse weather, and the interest group members will investigate ways to safeguard infrastructure systems against those impacts. The methodologies that increase the resilience and reliability of energy utilities also provide more headroom for renewable energy integration, which will directly reduce emissions.

Moreover, recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic is ongoing and the utility services have been affected by staff absences, just like any other industry. It is important that lessons are learned and that the infrastructure systems are protected against a future pandemic or a more impactful Covid strain. The group will discuss ways that infrastructure systems can be safeguarded against pandemics, and through a two-way interaction with stakeholders will ensure impactful uptake.

The project team aims to achieve two main objectives:

Objective 1: Scope the development of a critical infrastructure interest group at Sussex.

Forming an interest group that spans at least four Schools (Engineering and Informatics, Mathematical and Physical Sciences, Business, Global Studies), the Sussex Energy Group (SEG) and SSRP will create synergies by helping to improve the resilience of Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) to existential threats such as pandemics or climate change. It would provide the critical mass to engage meaningfully with local, national and international industrial partners, government departments and relevant organisations. Recent research activity and external engagement highlighted the risk of Covid-19 to power network operation, and the need for climate adaptation of infrastructure. The main focus of the group will initially be on:

  1. Resilience of critical infrastructure to infectious disease disruption
  2. Climate change adaptation (resilience of critical infrastructure to climate change)
  3. Net zero adaptation at the local level (hydrogen, microgrids, community energy)

Two main activities are proposed to fulfil this objective:

  • Conducting surveys, within the external partners identified below, but not limited to those, in order to establish the appetite and the required focus for the group. Pitching of possible titles and receiving feedback.
  • Gathering views and expertise from the internal Sussex academics, in order to lay out clearly the strengths of the group, as well as identifying gaps that should be filled.

Objective 2: Policy and technical recommendations for infrastructure resilience definitions and stress tests for climate adaptation and infectious diseases.

As part of the PI’s engagement with industrially focused and research-focused Working Groups, a need has emerged to clarify the definitions of infrastructure resilience, to encompass the impact of pandemics and climate change. This requires gathering views from multiple experts, and to a large extent is the function of the above Working Groups. However, dedicating a researcher through HEIF will accelerate this activity, and will result in more robust technical and policy recommendations to be produced. These will be aimed at the industry and Ofgem, and potentially other private and public organisations.

Hence, two proposed activities are related to this objective:

  • Engaging with experts from the Working Groups and beyond, in order to help define an extended infrastructure resilience definition that will act as an industry standard definition, and helping to put this into a white paper and/or journal publication.
  • Promoting the above output to relevant stakeholders, to increase its impact.

The ultimate goal is to make critical national infrastructure more resilient. This will help protect our energy, water, telecommunications, transport and other services to maintain an acceptable level of operation in the face of High-Impact Low Probability (HILP) events related to climate change or infectious diseases like Covid-19. This project aims to take the first step towards the establishment of a critical infrastructure interest group at Sussex, which will act as a hub for the industry, policymakers and other stakeholders to engage in knowledge exchange on these two topics initially, with the potential for further expansion.

Timeline and funding

Timeline

March 2022-July 2022

Funding

HEIF fund co-sponsored by SSRP (£11,443)

The team

Where we worked

United Kingdom.