Vulnerability of US and European electricity supply to climate change

van Vliet, M.T.H., Yearsley, J.R., Ludwig, F., Voegele, S., Lettenmaier, D.P., & Kabat, P. (2012). Vulnerability of US and European electricity supply to climate change. Nature Climate Change 2 (9) 676-681. 10.1038/nclimate1546.

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In the United States and Europe, at present 91% and 78% of the total electricity is produced by thermoelectric (nuclear and fossil-fuelled) power plants, which directly depend on the availability and temperature of water resources for cooling. During recent warm, dry summers several thermoelectric power plants in Europe and the southeastern United States were forced to reduce production owing to cooling-water scarcity. Here we show that thermoelectric power in Europe and the United States is vulnerable to climate change owing to the combined impacts of lower summer river flows and higher river water temperatures. Using physically based hydrological and water temperature modelling framework in combination with an electricity production model, we show a summer average decrease in capacity of power plants of 6.3-16% in the United States depending on cooling system type and climate scenario for 2031-2060. In addition, probabilities of extreme (>90%) reductions in thermoelectric power production will on average increase by a factor of three. Considering the increase in future electricity demand, there is a strong need for improved climate adaptation strategies in the thermoelectric power sector to assure future energy security.

Item Type: Article
Research Programs: Directorate (DIR)
Bibliographic Reference: Nature Climate Change; 2(9):676-681 (September 2012) (Published online 3 June 2012)
Depositing User: IIASA Import
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2016 08:46
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 17:39

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