Climate Change Impacts on Renewable Energy Generation
Climate change has become an increasingly important area of research and as a result an exponential increase of academic publications on this topic has been registered in the last few years. Within climate related areas, risks and adaptation played a smaller role in literature and in the reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) until its Fourth Assessment Report. This gap is still relevant in practical issues like climate finance.
Climate change is not a yes or no issue. We are already dealing with changes caused by climate change, and irrelevant to the scenario and how quickly or in what capacity the international community reacts to reduce the causes of anthropogenic climate change, humans will have to face these impacts.
The paradox of electricity generation is that it is the economic sector with the highest Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions due to the use of fossil fuel. But at the same time, it will be severely affected by the impacts of climate change. This will impact electricity supply and also demand, as it can alter consumption patterns in various sectors.
ADDRESSING MULTIPLE RISKS
Renewable energies are usually mentioned as one of the most promising solutions the sector can offer to reduce GHGs. But they rely on resources that depend on climate variables and therefore can also be affected by climate change.
Analysing climate change impacts is a young field of research in which most quantitative references are no more than five years old. Research shows that there are multiples threats than can affect renewable generation (Solaun & Cerdá, 2019), such as:
- Hydropower generation: change in rainfall patterns, flooding and intense rain, air temperature and others.
- Wind generation: changes in wind speed, changes in daily or seasonal distribution of wind, changes in temperature, sea level rise, extreme events and others.
- Solar photovoltaic: changes in mean temperature, changes in solar irradiation and cloudiness, Changes in dirt, dust, snow, atmospheric particles and others, wind speed, precipitation, extreme weather events.
To analyse how these impacts may affect a company or plant, several methodologies exist.
- In order to obtain an overall picture of a company or group, multi-criteria methodologies, based on categories such as probability and consequence or exposure, sensitivity and adaptation capacity, are most commonly used. For this, it is often sufficient to work with publicly available information from public projections in the country or region.
- When seeking a detailed understanding of the impacts on certain facilities, physical or econometric models are most commonly used, combined with monetary quantifications of impacts on operating margins or investment parameters. In these cases, more detailed projections through downscaling methods are often necessary.
For those interested, we would like to recommend some links to our research in this area:
- For a general overview: Solaun, Kepa, & Cerdá, E. (2019). Climate change impacts on renewable energy generation. A review of quantitative projections. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 116. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2019.109415
- Impacts on hydropower generation: Solaun, Kepa, & Cerdá, E. (2017). The impact of climate change on the generation of hydroelectric power-a case study in southern Spain. Energies, 10(9). https://doi.org/10.3390/en10091343
- Impacts on wind energy: Solaun, Kepa, & Cerdá, E. (2020). Impacts of climate change on wind energy power – Four wind farms in Spain. Renewable Energy, 145, 1306–1316. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.renene.2019.06.129
Do not hesitate to contact Kepa Solaun for more information on this topic:
Global Factor CEO