Interdependencies of Electric Grid and Critical Lifelines: Identifying Climate Exposure and Adaptation Strategies

Analyzing teleconnections and climate vulnerability and resilience of the elecricity sector

Thalassa Research & Consulting, LLC


Manhattan Beach, CA

Recipient Location


Senate District


Assembly District



Amount Spent



Project Status

Project Result

Drawing on extensive stakeholder engagement in 2016 and 2017 as well as interactive system modeling, researchers published a final, peer reviewed report as part of California's Fourth Climate Change Assessment. Cross-cutting findings include that energy and telecommunication are critically connected to each other and to other lifelines; emergency management and public health services depend on inputs from all lifelines to be effective; workforce availability is crucial to the ability to respond effectively, but it is already limited and dependent on many different upstream lifelines; and maintaining a state of good repair on all equipment is essential to smooth functioning of all lifelines. Opportunities to advance resilience of interdependent lifeline systems include open data policies, adaptation planning mandates, and engagement at regional levels to consider extreme scenarios.

The Issue

Climate vulnerability assessments in the energy system by utilities have thus far only examined hazards that the utilities are familiar with and that are proximate to their assets. However, what is known from natural disaster research is that hazards can have cascading impacts across sectors. To protect the energy sector from climate disruption, it is crucial to develop tools and methodologies to investigate non-proximate catastrophic and cascading risks in a geographically and context specific manner. This research is a first step in developing such methodologies and tools for the greater Los Angeles region.

Project Innovation

This pilot study for electricity sector climate adaptation involves vigorous stakeholder engagement and systems analysis to identify and systematically account for cascading impacts internal to and outside of the electricity sector as well as resilience options. These cascading impacts include climate impacts to supply chains for electricity generation and distribution, disruption to telecommunications that the electricity sector relies on in emergencies, and other impacts that may be initially felt far away but have consequences for California's electricity system. One example of supply chain interruption is that manufacturing facilities in East Asia that produce 500kV transformers, which the California distribution system relies on, are susceptible to flooding and other extreme events linked to climate change. This study pilots a systematic framework for assessing such long-distance linkages that can disrupt electricity services and cause ripple or cascading effects on critical infrastructure in the Greater Los Angeles region. Findings from this project, which includes many diverse stakeholders, could be used to inform planning in other areas of the state.

Project Benefits

The research will lead to technological advancement and breakthroughs to overcome barriers to the achievement of the State of California's statutory energy goals by addressing challenges in the state's largest metropolitan area -- the study of societal teleconnections. Societal teleconnections are human-created linkages that connect activities, trends, and disruptions across large distances such that locations can experience negative impacts from faraway places. This study is producing new tools and techniques to assist communities to incorporate climate impacts that are non-local in origin into their traditional climate adaptation and hazard planning. This is the first time that a systematic approach to exogenous risks is being taken for an urban area.

Increase Safety


The tools created in this study, which are being pilot tested in the greater Los Angeles area, can be used to protect the safety of electricity infrastructure from cascading impacts of climate change related events across sectors.

Key Project Members

Project Member

Juliette Hart



Susanne Moser Research and Consulting


Contact the Team