Mapping the Global Power Infrastructure for Climate Adaptation

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Access to a resilient and reliable power source is crucial in delivering services like health, education and other infrastructure services. This is also the aim of the Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SGD 7) where it calls for universal access to affordable, reliable, and modern energy services by 2030. Achieving this goal will also pave the way to attain other SGD goals.

According to the study, “Predictive mapping of the global power system using open data”, 97 per cent of the global power population lives within 10 kilometres of a medium-voltage (MV) line and shows large variations between regions and income levels.  

The study further mentions:

  • While there is available data on high voltage infrastructure globally, data and spatial information on the medium- to low voltage is non-existent according to the study. This is partly because many high voltage networks distribution infrastructure owners and operators are required to contribute data.
  • While transmission operators of medium and lower voltage distribution networks which are often on a national scale have no GIS-ready formats, have restricted public access, and do not have digitized aerial photographs which may be due to smaller overhead line structures, or because cables are often buried in many urban areas.
  • Limited data on medium to low-voltage infrastructure and location makes it challenging for governments and utility services to make improvements like extending, strengthening, and modifying electricity networks and increasing renewable energy share of the global energy mix to improve network resilience which can significantly contribute to the regions climate change adaptation.

To attain the SGD 7 goals, researchers of the “Predictive mapping…” study have created a first composite map of the global power system, using a combination of state-of-the-art algorithms in geospatial data analysis and open data sources such as OpenStreetMap and publicly released satellite imagery and derived products from NASA, NOAA, ESA and others.

Having a single global dataset will be valuable to researchers and practitioners, easy to replicate, and to serve as a starting point for future improvements and region-specific efforts and will “pave the way for improved efforts in electricity modelling and planning.”

Arderne, et al. (2020) says that this standardized global dataset of transmission, distribution and low-voltage lines will be a valuable starting point for electrification planners and researchers in several fields, such as assessing social inequalities, estimating exposure to natural hazards, and quantifying electricity infrastructure roll-out requirements. 

Countries, especially those vulnerable to the effects of climate change, will find the application of the study results useful for implementing climate adaptation and mitigation programs and even building back better.

To access the entire research, please use the citation below:

Arderne, C., Zorn, C., Nicolas, C. et al. Predictive mapping of the global power system using open data. Sci Data 7, 19 (2020).

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