“Resilience and Stability of Ecological Systems” was a paper by the Canadian ecologist C.J. Hollings published in the Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 1973. The concept of resilience was used to describe the persistence of natural systems in face of changes in the ecosystem. The paper has had a major impact within ecology and the concept of resilience has later been expanded to many other areas, including the electric grid.

The 2003 Northeast blackout and extreme weather events like hurricane Katrina (2005), superstorm Sandy (2012), polar vortex (2014), hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria (2017), as well as awareness of new risks, such as physical and cyber-attacks, etc., have contributed to the increased attention to the resilience of the electric grid and ways to strengthen it.


Achieving 100% renewable energy was not so long ago seen as a dream. Now recognized to be viable, many cities around the world have set such targets.

Still it is not a trivial task to get to 100% renewable energy, while at the same time ensure reliable and affordable electric power. A key enabling factor is being connected to a large and robust electric grid.  It gives access to remote renewable resources and it is the most cost efficient way to balance the variability of wind and solar. Let’s take a closer look at a couple of cases.


Ever since Clayton Christensen wrote The Innovator’s Dilemma (1997) finding disruptive technologies has been the holy grail for innovators and business developers. However, reality is different. In most cases most technologies are evolutionary rather than revolutionary and the ones that are truly disruptive have taken quite some time to happen.  In all fairness Clayton Christensen pointed out that disruptive technologies were not immediately disruptive but started in small niche markets before overtaking mainstream market segments.

Rarely is it the technology in itself that is disruptive. The ignition for the market to take off is often the combination of technology and social behavior changes, regulatory changes or similar “non-technical” events. In terms of customer acceptance there is also the question what tips it over to reach the critical mass for success. “Crossing the Chasm” (1991) by Geoffrey A. Moore remains a very good read. In addition Malcolm Gladwell in his book “The Tipping Point” (2000) elegantly describes “how little things can make a big difference”.

To make the case let us look at two major but different “disruptive technologies”: airbags and shale gas.