Power companies must plan for climate risks

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a report entitled “Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability” at the end of February. Among the warnings found in the 3,675-page report is that human-induced climate change is causing dangerous and widespread disruptions to nature and affecting the lives of billions of people around the world, despite best efforts. deployed to reduce risk.

“When we look at the quantitative evidence, we clearly see that global average temperatures and sea levels have been rising over the past 150 years, and we are still on that trend. We also find that climate models cannot replicate observed global and continental changes in history without human inputs, such as greenhouse gas emissions and land use,” said Dr Steven Rose. , Senior Research Economist and Technical Executive at Energy Systems and Climate Analysis. Group of the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), which was also a lead author of the IPCC report, said POWER.

“The evidence that climate change is affecting society and ecosystems has grown and continues to grow. This evidence not only helps us characterize risks, but also helps us understand the contributions of climate and societal factors needed to manage those risks. The health and prosperity of future society depends on both,” he said.

Among Rose’s biggest takeaways from the IPCC report are that climate change will affect all natural and human systems; more climate change is expected and climate risks will increase; adaptation and resilience planning will be required; and the economic impacts of climate change are likely to increase with the level of global warming.

The high cost of extreme weather conditions

Earlier this year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), the self-proclaimed “marker” of extreme weather and climate events, reported that there had been 20 “catastrophic events weather/climate” with losses exceeding $1 billion. each affecting the United States in 2021. These events included one drought event, two flood events, 11 severe storm events, four tropical cyclone events, one wildfire event, and one winter storm event. The events had significant economic impacts, with overall costs estimated at around $145 billion, according to NCEI estimates.

Among the billion dollar weather and climate disasters is the winter storm and cold snap that hit much of the United States from February 10-19, 2021. It brought freezing temperatures, snow and ice from the Plains to southern Texas. It was the coldest event in the continental United States in more than 30 years, according to the NCEI, and caused power outages for nearly 10 million people. The agency reported that 226 people died as a result of the disaster and the total cost was estimated at $24 billion.

Another notable event was an extreme heat wave that shattered temperature records in many parts of the Pacific Northwest from June 27-30, 2021. Temperatures in Portland, Oregon soared to 116F, beating the previous city ​​record 107F. Further north in Seattle, Washington, temperatures reached a sizzling 108 F, surpassing the previous record of 103 F set in 2009. In Lytton, British Columbia, the temperature reached 121 F, setting a new national record in Canada. The NCEI grouped this event with widespread drought conditions in many western states and reported a total of 229 deaths and a cost of $8.9 billion as a result.

highest CO2 Emissions never

Climate activists have been calling on people to stop burning fossil fuels for decades. Although their calls have helped slow the growth of emissions, the trend has not yet reversed. The International Energy Agency (IEA) reported on March 8 that global energy-related CO2 emissions increased by 6% in 2021 to 36.3 billion tonnes, the highest level ever, as the global economy rebounded strongly from the COVID-19 crisis and relied heavily on the coal to fuel this growth.

The rebound in global CO2 emissions above pre-pandemic levels have been largely driven by China, where CO2 emissions increased by 750 million tonnes between 2019 and 2021. Increases in emissions in China more than offset the overall decline in the rest of the world over the same period. In 2021, China’s CO2 emissions accounted for almost a third of the global total. CO2 emissions in India have also rebounded strongly in 2021, driven by growth in the use of coal for power generation. Coal-fired generation has reached a record high in India, exceeding its 2020 level by 13%, according to the IEA.

Manage climate risks

Clearly, a certain amount of additional climate change is to be expected. So what should we do? “Plan for the effects of a changing climate,” Rose said. “This planning process should begin by defining the relationships between potentially changing climate variables and current technology, system and market design specifications,” he added.

EPRI researchers conducted an in-depth analysis of the impacts that extreme weather events can have on the electricity industry. Among the recommendations outlined in a recent EPRI report are: to ensure that renewable energy load and generation profiles are in sync, use sufficient historical data, and incorporate projected climate trends; model the correlated unavailabilities of the generating sets; and developing/using measures of resource adequacy that take into account the outsized impact that extreme weather events can have on the system. In addition, EPRI and the Enel Foundation have launched a series of virtual workshops focusing on the climate adaptation of the electricity sector in order to strengthen the resilience of the electricity network.

Is there any reason to be optimistic? Rose seemed to think so. “I am very struck by the proactivity and the level of reflection that I see around the world. There is certainly much more to do and opportunities for improvement, but I see evidence around the world of constructive efforts to understand and address the risks of climate change,” he said.

Aaron Larson is the editor of POWER.