Impacts Of Geophysical Hazards On Critical Infrastructure: Case Study Of Electricity Transmission Networks

Komendantova, N. ORCID: (2016). Impacts Of Geophysical Hazards On Critical Infrastructure: Case Study Of Electricity Transmission Networks. Geoinformatics Research Papers 4 (BS4002) 10.2205/2016BS01Sochi.

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Project: Knowledge Based Climate Mitigation Systems for a Low Carbon Economy (COMPLEX, FP7 308601)


Geophysical hazards such as earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and storms affect electricity transmission infrastructure by destroying its elements including grids, masts, interconnectors and other elements of the electricity transmission system. Extreme temperatures also have negative impacts on transmission capacities of electricity networks. This paper discusses historical evidence of impacts of geophysical hazards and how they lead to major blackouts, which took place during the last decades in France, in the Balkans region and in China.
In 1999 France experienced the storms Lothar and Martin, which had the wind speed of 200 km/h and had severe impacts on electricity transmission infrastructure. For instance 0.5% of the total number of towers were affected, 10% of circuits and 180 substations were out of order (Eurelectric, 2006). In the middle of 2015 the heavy rainfall resulted in extensive flooding in the Balkan region, which affected Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Croatia. This was a real multi-risk event, which was followed by landslides, which damaged overhead lines and underground infrastructure as well as transformer stations, customer connections and metering equipment. This resulted in an interruption of power supply, which affected more than 250,000 customers. The Wenchuan earthquake, which happened in May 2008, was one of the most devastating earthquakes in the history of China for the last 60 years. It had the magnitude of 8.0 on the Richter scale and severely damaged regional infrastructure, including electricity systems, such as regional high voltage power transmission lines and distribution lines. The earthquake damaged three 500 kV electricity transmission lines, fifty six 220 kV transmission lines, one hundred and ten 35 kV lines and seven hundred ninety five 10kV lines. The lines tripped mainly because of the broken poles, fallen pylons and damages to transformers and circuit breakers (Eidinger, 2009). The destruction of electricity transmission infrastructure resulted in a blackout, which affected 2.5 million people.
Based on the analysis of the reports about these blackouts, lessons learned as well as elicitations from stakeholders from different sectors such as transmission systems operations, NGOs, academia and international organizations, this paper provides recommendations on risk management and short and medium term response and recovery measures.


1. Eidinger, J. (2009). Wenchuan earthquake impact to power systems. In Proceedings of the 2009 technical council on lifeline earthquake engineering (TCLEE) conference: lifeline earthquake engineering in a multihazard environment, Oakland, June.

2. Eurelectric, (2006). Impacts of Severe Storms on Electric Grids. Union of the Electricity Industry – Eurelectric.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE “Data Intensive System Analysis for Geohazard Studies” (Session 1. Geophysical systems dynamics, data analysis and extreme events) 18–21 July 2016, Sochi region, Mountain cluster, Russia
Research Programs: Risk & Resilience (RISK)
Risk, Policy and Vulnerability (RPV)
Depositing User: Michaela Rossini
Date Deposited: 18 Jul 2016 06:10
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 17:27

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