Impacts of Anthropogenic Climate Change to the Electric Sector of Europe

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anthropogenic climate change

Anthropogenic climate change will significantly affect the electric sector and will impact both the supply and demand of electricity.

A study by Leonie Wenz, Anders Levermann, and Maximilian Auffhammer, examines the north to south polarization of European countries electricity consumption under future climate-induced warming.

The energy sector is uniquely linked to climate change. To meet the greenhouse gas mitigation targets under the Paris Agreement, it must undergo a shift towards low and zero-carbon and fossil-fuel sources.

At the same time, the energy sector is highly climate-sensitive from both the supply and demand side.

From the supply end, hydropower, for example, is affected by the changing flow regimes while higher temperature reduces high voltage transmission capacity, lowers the efficiency of some carbon-powered generators, and depress yields of certain bioenergy crops.

On the demand side, human response to weather shocks and long-term climate adaptation will change the energy consumption patterns of residential, commercial, agricultural, and industrial sectors.

Temperature rise will negatively impact health, economic output as it lowers labour productivity, and heatwaves increase mortality rates. Human’s adaptation to climate-induced heat can influence their electric consumption and hence the load patterns.

For example, while less-frequent cold-days can reduce demands for space heating, growing demands for cooling during an increasing number of hot days can spike up pressures on electricity consumption affecting the daily and seasonal peak loads.

The study examines the electric consumption pattern of 35 European countries – both their peak load and overall consumption under climate change.

To achieve this the researchers have used the end-of-century under three different greenhouse-gas concentration trajectories. These ranges from ambitious climate mitigation to a business-as-usual scenario.

High-frequency temperature and electricity load data between 2006-2012 were analyzed to compute climate change impacts on electricity demand until 2100. The analysis shows that there are significant increases in electric consumption in the south and decreases of consumption in the north.

There is also a significant polarization and seasonal shifts in peak demand and consumption. The additional costs of increases from demands particularly in the south can be offset by carefully crafted policies while the main burden of the climate-induced electricity effect will rest on the planners of transmission infrastructure, and peak-generating and storage-capacity.

To read the entire paper, click the link below:

Source citation:

Wenz, Leonie & Levermann, Anders & Auffhammer, Maximilian. (2017). North–south polarization of European electricity consumption under future warming. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 114. 201704339. 10.1073/pnas.1704339114. Retrieved from

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