Assessing the economic impact of space weather on power distribution networks
Time series of the Auroral Electrojet (AE) index during the 1989 storms (gray), with a 31‐min running median trace overlaid (blue). Intervals of intense substorms (AE > 1,500 nT) are shown in blue. The times of the sudden storm commencement are shown as well as historical impacts. Credit: Eastwood et al. [2018], Figure 1a
Source: Space Weather

Geomagnetic substorms are relatively localized in time and space, and occur multiple times with varying severity during a geomagnetic storm. Eastwood et al. [2018] develop a new framework to assess the economic impact of space weather on power distribution networks by focusing on substorms. They also factor in the resilience of the power grid and the quality of the available space weather forecast.

The authors benchmark for 1-in-10, 1-in-30 and 1-in-100 years events. For the 1-in-30 years scenario (two substorms) over western Europe and with current forecast/linear recovery conditions, the direct cost is estimated to be €9.3 billion, with an estimated international spillover costs in the range of €787–1,108 billion.

The authors suggest that an improved forecasting scenario (approximately halving the physical impact footprint) reduces the economic impact to €3.7 billion. It also reduces the spillover cost by a factor of 4. The development of improved situational knowledge is therefore likely to have a very significant cost/benefit ratio.

A recent European Space Agency study provides an estimated cost of €0.5 billion over 2016–2032 to enable an improved forecast system. A framework approach, as presented by the authors, should enable a more robust assessment of space weather economic impact and facilitate evidence‐based policy decisions well beyond the borders of Europe. The authors provide preliminary possible assessments by region.

Citation: Eastwood, J. P., Hapgood, M. A., Biffis, E., Benedetti, D., Bisi, M. M., Green, L., et al. [2018]. Quantifying the economic value of space weather forecasting for power grids: An exploratory study. Space Weather, 16, 2052–2067.

—Delores J. Knipp, Editor-in-Chief, Space Weather

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