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The climate and increased extreme weather affect our energy systems

February 20, 2020

Climate change, with more and more storms and heat waves, also has consequences for our energy supply. An international research team has now developed a new method for calculating how extreme weather affects energy systems.

Climate change is often described in terms of average temperature changes. But it is mainly extreme weather events, like cold snaps, autumn storms and summer heat waves, that have the greatest impact on the economy and society.

And our energy systems - especially systems that include renewable energy sources - are highly dependent on the weather and climate. But to date, there have been no suitable methods for calculating how future extreme weather events will affect these energy systems.

Weather changes affect renewable energy sources

Renewable energy, such as solar and wind power, play a crucial role for reducing climate change by partially replacing fossil-fuel-based energy sources.

"But their capacity is highly dependent on weather conditions, which makes their share in the existing energy system something of a challenge when it comes to reliability and stability," says Deliang Chen, professor of physical meteorology at the University of Gothenburg and one of the five researchers on the international research team.

Designed a new method

The researchers have now developed a new method for predicting how energy systems that contain renewable energy technology may be affected in the future by a changing climate with a focus on extreme weather. Researchers have used the method to analyse 30 Swedish cities, including Gothenburg, Stockholm and Malmö.

The results show that future extreme climate events can have a considerable impact on energy systems.

"When we used the method in 30 Swedish cities and considered 13 scenarios for climate change, we saw uncertainty in the potential for renewable energy and energy demand."

The gap between access to and energy demand may, with certain future climate variations, be as much as 34 per cent.

"That means a reduction in power supply reliability of up to 16 per cent due to extreme weather events."

Collaboration necessary

Faced with upcoming climate changes, shaping and optimising an energy system that can coordinate renewable energy sources in the energy supply requires close collaboration between energy system experts and climate researchers, according to Deliang Chen.

"We need this kind of collaboration to handle the complexity of climate and energy systems and to be able to predict the multidimensional effects that await."
-end-
The article Quantifying the impacts of climate change and extreme climate events on energy systems was recently published in the international scientific journal Nature Energy.

Link to article: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41560-020-0558-0

University of Gothenburg

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