Study shows energy systems can be impacted by climate change

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In a study published Feb. 17, a team of scientists from Switzerland, Sweden, Australia and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, or Berkeley Lab, found that energy systems can be notably impacted by climate variations.

The study found that energy systems usually do not take fluctuations in the climate into account, especially from frequent changes in weather conditions and extreme weather conditions such as heat waves and tornadoes. These climate variations are predicted to become more frequent as climate change progresses.

The team also found that climate change is a multidimensional issue, as it affects not only temperature but other vectors such as wind speed. According to Dasun Perera, a researcher from Swiss Federal Laboratories, the fluctuation in the climate will make meeting the generation and supply of renewable energy difficult.

“Renewable energy is the main solution to mitigate CO2 emissions,” Perera said. “The energy sector is one of the leaders of CO2 emissions, along with transportation. … It will be tough to integrate renewable technology with the challenges of climate change, even though we need renewable energy to fight climate change.”

The study simulated a range of hypothetical scenarios in 30 cities in Sweden, according to a Berkeley Lab press release. The findings showed that there could potentially be blackouts, such as one that found a 34% gap between total energy generation and demand and a 16% drop in power supply reliability, according to the release.

The team used a stochastic robust optimization methodology combining both high-probable, low-impact scenarios such as a small change in temperature, and low-probable high-impact scenarios such as a tornado to see all types of possibilities, according to Perera. The study found that both scenarios had an adverse impact, such as the low-impact scenario creating effects in the long run.

“We need to think not only for climate mitigation but also for climate change adaptation,” said Vahid Nik, associate professor at Lund University. “It’s a hand-in-hand process. The good thing about energy solutions is that in many cases we can have solutions that are both sustainable and resilient.”

According to Nik, the energy systems mentioned in the study are mostly urban energy systems. He also added that the energy systems encompass the network starting from generating energy to providing homes with energy, such as heating and lighting.

It can be expensive to meet the demand of the energy systems during peak hours, especially with climate fluctuations, according to Nik. He also added that while there is no main solution, one solution can be to add more energy sources.

“Cities need to accommodate to these challenges,” Perera said. “Climate change is not something that will come and go but will remain. … It is very important that we act on it. It is the responsibility of each and everyone, like collective work.”

Contact Nina Narahari at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ninanarahari_dc.