Electricity consumption in Europe will shift under climate change

August 28, 2017, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Rising temperatures due to greenhouse gas emissions will fundamentally change electricity consumption patterns in Europe. A team of scientists from Germany and the United States now analyzed what unchecked future warming means for Europe's electricity demand: daily peak loads in Southern Europe will likely increase and overall consumption will shift from Northern Europe to the South. Further, the majority of countries will see a shift of temperature-driven annual peak demand from winter to summer by the end of this century. This would put additional strain on European power grids, the study now published in the renowned US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) suggests.

"It is fascinating to see how the response of to temperature changes is similar across European countries' peak and total electricity use seem to be smallest on days with a maximum temperature of about 22°C (72°F), and increases when this daily maximum temperature either rises or falls," lead author Leonie Wenz from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) explains. "We use this common characteristic as a basis for estimating future electricity consumption under climate change - that is beyond the current temperature range. That way, those European countries that are already experiencing very hot temperatures today serve as examples for the future of cooler countries. It turns out that electricity demand in Europe will shift from countries like Sweden or Norway to countries like Portugal or Spain. Concurrently, the annual peak load will shift from winter to summer in most countries."

Using hourly electricity data across 35 countries

"Quantifying the connection between heat and human behavior is at the frontier of climate change research. There now is ample evidence that when it's hot outside, air quality suffers, people are more stressed, aggressive, violent and less productive, mortality and crime rates rise. All sectors of the economy are affected by thermal stress, from the residential to the commercial, agricultural to the industrial sector. The main adaptation mechanism available to humans to combat high outdoor temperatures is a cooled indoor built environment, which in most settings requires the consumption of significant amounts of electricity. This increased demand for air conditioning will put pressure on electricity grids when it is hot outside and generation and transmission infrastructure are already strained," co-author Max Auffhammer from the University of California, Berkeley, adds.

The study is the first to use observed hourly electricity data across 35 European countries - which are connected by the world's largest synchronous electrical grid - to estimate how climate change impacts the intensity of peak-load events and overall electricity consumption. While previous work on the relationship between temperature and electricity consumption primarily focused on the US or single European countries and the overall consumption impacts, recent research suggests that the effects of changes in peak load may be much larger and costlier, putting the focus on times when the power grid is already stressed.

A fundamental challenge for transmission infrastructure and peak-generating capacity

"A few decades ago, no ordinary car in Europe had air conditioning, today almost every automobile has it - the same development will probably happen with buildings in Europe, yet not for reasons of comfort but due to necessity. People will need to cool down their environments to keep up their life and economic productivity," co-author Anders Levermann from PIK and Columbia University in New York concludes.

While the study indicates that the projected effect of climate change on European electricity consumption as a whole is nearly zero, the shift in spatial as well as seasonal consumption will be a fundamental challenge for Europe, he argues: "This will have important ramifications for the transmission infrastructure, peak-generating capacity and storage requirements - to adapt to the warming that is already unavoidable due to past . The easiest way to limit the impacts of remains to keep the Paris climate guardrail, that is to limit the temperature increase to well below 2 degrees Celsius."

Explore further: Climate change may overload US electrical grid: study

More information: Leonie Wenz el al., "North–south polarization of European electricity consumption under future warming," PNAS (2017). www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1704339114

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14 comments

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Tom_Andersen
5 / 5 (2) Aug 28, 2017
And India will turn on 500 million air conditioners. This article talks about 10 million new AC units?
tblakely1357
1 / 5 (7) Aug 28, 2017
Is there any horror that 'Climate Change' can't be responsible for?
howhot3
5 / 5 (4) Aug 28, 2017
Is there any horror that 'Climate Change' can't be responsible for?

Anything horror of global consequence? No. (currently).
Parsec
4.8 / 5 (5) Aug 29, 2017
While it takes profound stupidity and utter ignorance of science to deny that AGW has an overwhelming amount of evidence to support it, it takes a complete leave of the senses and willful blindness not to accept the climate is warming for some reason. Attribute it to natural variability, or solar radiance, or fruit fly overpopulation in madagascar, warming is a measurable and proven reality.

Given the reality of that warming, it isn't much of a stretch to realize that power usage in Europe will change as a consequence. Describing changes in power consumption as a "horror" is the sort of logical and rational fallacy that should make any reasonable person hang their head.

It never ceases to amaze me that such straightforward and reasonable findings are endlessly lampooned by people who think that scientific findings should be censored for political correctness and somehow conform to their own political ideology to be real.
syndicate_51
5 / 5 (4) Aug 29, 2017
Is there any horror that 'Climate Change' can't be responsible for?


Collisions with Neutron stars.
syndicate_51
5 / 5 (5) Aug 29, 2017
@ parsec A good quote for that.

"Everybody is entitled to their own opinion but not their own facts".
dirk_bruere
5 / 5 (2) Aug 29, 2017
All nicely matched to maximum solar power. However, the strain on grids will be nothing compared to the changeover to electric vehicles
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 29, 2017
All nicely matched to maximum solar power.

Not exactly. E.g. germany is already at 37% electricity from renewables (wind/solar/hydro/biomass). But the months we need to import electricity is during June/July (all other months it's net exports).

Grids will have to be adapated when a country changes over. In most industrialized nations the grid is aging and due for an overhaul, anyhow. It makes sense to take shifting needs into account while we're at it.
gkam
1 / 5 (5) Aug 29, 2017
aksdad
1 / 5 (1) Aug 29, 2017
A few decades ago, no ordinary car in Europe had air conditioning, today almost every automobile has it

Huh. Same thing in the U.S. and everywhere else in the world. Climate change? Guess again.

Air conditioning used to be an expensive addition to new cars "a few decades ago." But with technological improvements and more people buying them, they've become relatively inexpensive compared to the overall cost of a car. And the comfort they provide is undeniable. Even in Anchorage, Alaska, it gets uncomfortably hot in a car in the summer. Ironically, Fairbanks, just 120 miles form the Arctic circle, is even worse for heat buildup in a car in the summer.

It seems like a lot of uproar over a rise in temperature of only about 1° C since the late 1800's. That's 1.8° F for us metric-challenged folk. That's also such a small difference in temperature you can't really feel it. It's the difference in temperature you would experience climbing 330 feet higher up a hill.
aksdad
1 / 5 (1) Aug 29, 2017
While the study indicates that the projected effect of climate change on European electricity consumption as a whole is nearly zero...

Exactly. In other words, no big deal. Just like climate change.

The easiest way to limit the impacts of climate change remains to keep the Paris climate guardrail, that is to limit the temperature increase to well below 2 degrees Celsius.

The easiest way to deal with the (often wildly overestimated) impacts of climate change is to do what humans have done in response to climate change for thousands of years: adapt.

And why do anything at all if the study shows there will likely be no net increase in electricity consumption?
Turgent
Aug 29, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Turgent
1 / 5 (1) Aug 30, 2017
Global Climate Disaster (printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings.)

leetennant
not rated yet Aug 30, 2017
While it takes profound stupidity and utter ignorance of science to deny that AGW has an overwhelming amount of evidence to support it, it takes a complete leave of the senses and willful blindness not to accept the climate is warming for some reason. Attribute it to natural variability, or solar radiance, or fruit fly overpopulation in madagascar, warming is a measurable and proven reality..


Also we have a mechanism that could result in exactly these changes and changes consistent with that mechanism. This is like saying that an outbreak of measles COULD be caused by the measles virus but we just can't be 100% sure. After all, it could be a new measles-like virus that we haven't seen before so we shouldn't jump the gun and vaccinate against measles just yet. We predicted what would happen if CO2 levels increased and that has happened. No other explanations are required. Ockham's razor exists for exactly this reason.

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