Climate change to result in summer shift in electricity demand

30th August 2017

Failure to tackle rising temperatures due to greenhouse gas emissions will see Europe’s electricity demand peak in the summer rather than winter by the end of this century.

That is according to a new study by a team of German and US scientists, which also reveals that overall electricity consumption will shift from Northern Europe to the South.

This will be due to an increase in the need for air conditioning in the summer months and less demand for heating in the winter, putting increased pressure on electricity grids.

Study co-author, Anders Levermann, said: “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.”

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, involved observing hourly electricity data from 35 different European countries, connected to the world’s largest synchronous electrical grid.

It was found that peak and total electricity use appears to be lowest on days with a maximum temperature of around 22˚C, and increases when this either rises or falls.

The scientists concluded that the shift to increased electricity demand when it is hot could be a fundamental challenge for Europe when generation and transmission infrastructure is already strained.

While previous research on the relationship between temperature and electricity consumption primarily focused on the US or single European countries, it is thought that changes in peak load across Europe may be much larger and costlier.

“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 greenhouse gas emissions,” Levermann continued.

“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˚C.”


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