Electricity Sector Climate Information Project


The Electricity Sector Climate Information (ESCI) project is providing tools and tailored climate information to support the sector in improving long-term reliability and resilience to the risks from climate change and extreme weather.

The work is is being undertaken by CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology in collaboration with the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) and is funded through the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources.

The project is also co-designing tailored climate change data and information and collaborating with the sector to ensure it is usable by the people who need it, to support improved long-term climate risk planning for electricity infrastructure.

Ben Jones of AEMO explains to Nicolas Rivers why AEMO is interested in understanding and communicating climate risks  for the electricity sector, and their involvement in the ESCI project (Nov 2020) – Listen here

Electricity Sector Vulnerabilities

Our climate is changing due to increases in greenhouse gases. Australia has warmed by 1.4oC since 1910 with more extreme temperatures, 12% less rainfall in April to October in the southeast since 1970, an increase in extreme fire weather in southern Australia since 1950. More of the same is expected in future.

Weather is the ‘fuel’ for solar, wind and hydro electricity generation, temperature is a significant contributor to electricity demand, and electricity infrastructure performance is directly affected by hazards such as high temperatures, droughts and severe winds. In addition, there are acute, systemic consequences from severe or high-impact weather.

This exposure to weather means that the sector is vulnerable to a changing climate. The ESCI project was established to provide guidance on how to conduct a climate risk assessment and to provide tailored climate information to use as part of that assessment.

The most important climate hazards for the electricity system were identified as (in order of priority): increasing temperature, bushfires, wind, and precipitation/dam inflows. The increasing frequency and intensity of compound weather events was also an area of concern.

Increasing temperature: Increasing average and maximum temperatures, and the duration and magnitude of heatwaves reduce generator and network capacity and increase failure rates or maintenance/replacement costs. Extreme temperatures are also relevant to asset design specifications.

Bushfires: Increasing frequency of dangerous fire weather poses a threat to most assets, with a particularly high operational risk to transmission lines due to smoke. It also an important consideration in transmission line route selection and design.

Wind: Wind generation is sensitive to any reduction in average wind-speed as well as to an increase in the frequency and magnitude of destructive gusts.  High winds also reduce the capacity and threaten the integrity of transmission lines, making it an important consideration for network capacity assessments, design specifications and planning to reduce failure rates.

Precipitation/Dam inflows: The changing climate has caused a reduction in average rainfall in much of the National Electricity Market area reducing water available for hydro generation  and increasing power requirement for desalination . At the same time, extreme rainfall events and flooding have increased.. Flood events require consideration for asset design specifications and expected failure rates.


The ESCI project has taken a decision-centred approach, providing a framework and appropriate climate information to assess the long-term risk from climate change to safety, reliability, investment and resilience. While risk from climate change can (and should) be assessed on an asset-by-asset basis, the connectivity of the NEM means that weather events can affect large parts of the network at the same time, so the ESCI project has prioritised co-design with AEMO and consultation with the networks.

A consistent approach to assessing and quantifying climate change risk is needed across the sector, particularly in regulated parts of the sector, so the risk framework lays out a consistent approach to integrating an assessment of climate change risk into decision-making than can be used to support system-wide adaptation and risk mitigation.

Key project dates and activities are summarised in the diagram below.

Key project dates and activities summary


The ESCI project is compiling existing climate information and data and providing new downscaled climate data for the sector for use in long-term planning. Case studies are provided as examples of conducting a risk assessment; the climate information used in the case studies is preliminary data to illustrate the steps of the risk framework, and in some cases is pushing the current boundaries of our understanding of climate change. As such, it has not been fully validated and peer reviewed, and so it is not intended as the basis for decision-making at this stage. Where possible, we have made available preliminary outputs from the project at the request of the ESCI Reference Group (see below), final output will be made available as shown in the project sequencing.

Project reports currently available:

  1. Report on the first workshop (May 2019) exploring system vulnerabilities to an extreme weather event
  2. Report on the second workshop (July 2019) on hydro-generation inflow forecasting
  3. Report on using extreme and compound events for decision-making (October 2020)
  4. Technical report, and associated (preliminary) data, on the impact of extreme heat on renewable energy generation

Final output from the project will include:

  1. Standardised climate risk analysis methodology
  2. Climate risk assessment framework
  3. Guidance material for sector audiences
  4. Weather / climate data tailored to the electricity sector
  5. Detailed case studies on using tailored climate information for a risk assessment (see below)
  6. Fact sheets on using existing climate information in a risk assessment
  7. Capacity development, training and advice

Case Studies

The ESCI case studies are provided as examples of how to use climate information that has been tailored for the electricity sector in a risk assessment. The climate information used in the case studies is preliminary data to illustrate the steps of the risk framework, it has not been fully validated and peer reviewed, and so it is not intended as the basis for decision-making. The case studies assess the impact of a changing climate on the electricity system by analysing the relationship between the climate variable and system performance.

The project is focusing on 3 kinds of risk: 1. Resilience risk, 2. Reliability risk, 3. Investment risk. Four case studies are being documented, based on the identified vulnerabilities, to illustrate how to use the climate information to assess the materiality of the physical risk.

Heat Case Study: This case study analyses the investment risk for renewable energy proponents and the reliability risk for the system as increasing extreme temperatures impact wind and solar farm output. You can obtain a copy of the working draft using the link below. For additional detail, please see the ESCI Data and Papers page .

Current draft (May 2020) of the Heat Case Study (1.2 MB)

Extreme Event Case Study: his case study describes the system risk from a heat wave/high wind event identified in the climate projections. It includes impacts on the electricity system and options to increase the resilience of the National Electricity Market – some of which may occur outside the electricity system. This case study is based on new research done by the ESCI project providing quantitative case studies of extreme weather events for use in electricity sector decision-making.

Extreme Events: ESCI Weather and Climate Risk Scenario Workshop 1 - May 2019 (2.4 MB)

Hydrology: ESCI Weather and Climate Risk Scenario Workshop 2 - July 2019 (1.8 MB)

Bushfire Case Study: This case study assesses how the frequency and magnitude of bushfires near major transmission lines is likely to change, and how this can inform investment decisions to improve the reliability and resilience of the electricity system.

Wind Case Study: Severe convective wind gusts ('downdrafts') present a significant risk to electricity infrastructure, in particular to major transmission lines. Damage from downdrafts has caused the largest single event outages in the NEM in the last 10 years. The ESCI project is producing new diagnostics for severe convective winds for use in long-term planning of transmission line resilience.

Training and Webinars

A range of co-designed training and webinars are being delivered to the sector as part of the project. Recordings are made available as soon as possible after the completion of the training/webinar.


You can access recordings and copies of the presentations using the links below.


Course Title



26th February 2021

"Using science-based climate change information"

Michael Grose (CSIRO) & Leanne Webb (CSIRO)

Session 1: Introduction to the climate system and climate change science (YouTube)

Session 2: Understanding climate change modelling and projections (YouTube)

Session 3: Interpreting climate change projections (YouTube)

Session 4: Using climate change information in a risk assessment (YouTube)

Session 4: Using climate change information in a risk assessment (YouTube)

Session 5: ESCI climate projections datasets (YouTube)

Download PDF copies of the presentations: Sessions 1-3 (PDF download)

Download PDF copies of the presentations: Sessions 4-5 (PDF download)


The ESCI Webinar series commenced in May 2020. All webinars will be recorded and made available here.




Link to register/recording

28th May 2020

"Modelling the Future Climate"

John Clarke (CSIRO)

Recording (YouTube).

18th June 2020

"Heat Impacts on Variable Renewable Generators"

Ben Jones (AEMO) & Judith Landsberg (BoM)

Recording (YouTube).

16th July 2020

"The influence of climate change on the Australian bushfire season"

Karl Braganza (BoM)

Recording (YouTube)

25th August 2020

"Scenario analysis, confidence and uncertainty"

Kevin Hennessy (CSIRO) & Ben Jones (AEMO)

Recording (YouTube)

24th September 2020

"Scenarios, pathways, projections and stress tests – some key concepts of future climate analysis"

Michael Grose (CSIRO)

Recording (YouTube)

More information

Judith Landsberg
ESCI Project Co-ordinator

Page last updated: 5th March 2021