NIC0019

Written evidence submitted by Grid Scientific Limited

Grid Scientific offers independent consulting, project and advisory services that focus on delivering energy system transformation, achieving Net Zero and responding to the climate emergency. Whole systems approaches play a central role in the work, reflecting the need to consider the energy system holistically and the imperative to deliver climate, economic and social benefits through change at pace.

Grid Scientific draws on learning and experience gained in the telecommunications and energy sectors and an understanding of transformation processes and the complex interactions of technology, business, regulation, policy and people. The portfolio of work spans electricity, heat and transport as well as enablers such as digitalisation and systems integration.

This submission is being made to highlight and support the case for taking a whole systems approach in undertaking transition of Critical National Infrastructure to respond to the climate emergency.

1. Key vulnerabilities and levels of preparedness of UK CNI to extreme weather events and other effects of climate change, including: 

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2. What might constitute an ‘acceptable’ level of resilience to climate change within UK CNI, both to near-term risks and longer-term uncertainties or ‘tipping points’, and the obstacles to achieving it. 

 

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CNI sectors cannot be considered independently when defining “acceptable”; there are significant interactions and interdependencies, requiring a whole systems perspective be taken on determining what is possible, feasible and viable in delivering an “acceptable” level of resilience. Using a whole systems approach will help address the following:

 

 

             as transformation programmes in individual sectors progress and as the interactions and dependencies between sectors change as a result of this progress

             as limits on what is actually achievable emerge; technical and operational considerations may mean desired resilience levels are not a design or implementation option

             as society becomes more dependent on certain capabilities being available; “the digitalisation of everything” will have implications on expectations for the energy sector for example

             as the impacts of climate change become stronger and more visible and citizens more immediately threatened, extreme weather and wildfires for example

             as generational and demographic influences are felt.

 

 

             some parts of the country will be more affected, by virtue of proximity to the sea for example

             some parts of the country will be more impacted, industrial versus residential or urban versus rural for example

             different parts of the country may be better or less well equipped or more or less willing to deal with the impact of climate of change

             some parts of the country will be participating in sector transformation in different ways which will expose them to different risks or make them more adaptable etc; in energy for example, community energy and microgrids can alter the resilience landscape.

 

 

 

 

 

Achieving an “acceptable” level of resilience against this background of change and uncertainty requires a whole system approach to ensure that the complexity of the situation is being effectively and efficiently addressed. This approach can be applied across the CNI landscape to assure cross-sector interactions and dependencies are revealed and within individual sectors to address transition that is occurring at the sector level. This means treating this as a “system of systems” challenge.

 

3. The effectiveness of Government policy, legislation and implementation frameworks for managing national security risks arising from climate change, including those emerging within the private sector. 

 

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The paper “A Systems Approach to Delivering Net Zero: Recommendations from the Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology” [the CST Paper] provides a solid foundation.

 

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/910446/cst-net-zero-report-30-january-2020.pdf

 

The CST Paper is framed in terms of applying a whole systems approach to address the challenges and opportunities of achieving Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions. However, the systems engineering-based principles, functions and recommendations it describes could be extended and applied to the broader scope of adaptation and preparedness for the impacts of climate change more broadly.  Importantly the document goes beyond the more usual discussion of “what” needs to be done and considers the question of “how”. It acknowledges the high degree of uncertainty that pervades effective response to climate change and provides foundational thinking on how to establish the structures and mechanisms that will enable the coherent, collaborative and coordinated effort that will be needed to deliver good climate, economic and social outcomes for communities and the people that live and work in them.

 

4. Allocation of roles and responsibilities at the national, devolved and local level, and the connections between them. 

 

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5. The role of the Government’s forthcoming National Resilience Strategy, particularly in addressing opportunities for (and obstacles to) improved resilience among CNI providers. 

 

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6. The extent and effectiveness of UK-wide monitoring and early warning systems. 

 

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7. The opportunities presented by technological solutions (such as AI and digital twins) for anticipating and managing the implications of climate change for CNI.

 

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Mr Eric Brown, Director

 

13 February 2022