Power plants and electricity distribution networks are particularly vulnerable to droughts and floods. Photograph: Stephen Hird/Reuters
Rising sea levels, extremes of weather and an increase in the frequency of droughts and floods will all play havoc with the world’s energy systems as climate change takes hold, a new report has found.
Energy companies are more often cited as part of the problem of climate change, generating the lion’s share of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, amounting to around 40% of the total. But they will also suffer as global warming picks up pace, as generators – from nuclear reactors to coal-fired power plants – feel the brunt of the weather changes.
Many large plants are particularly at risk from droughts, because they need water to cool their facilities, and floods, because they lack protection from sudden storms. Electricity distribution networks are also likely to be affected.
The vulnerability of energy systems to natural shocks was shown starkly when the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan had to be closed down following the 2011 tsunami, which prompted governments around the world to review their nuclear policies.
The World Energy Council (WEC), which compiled the study along with Cambridge University and the European Climate Foundation, urged generators to examine their vulnerability to climate change, saying that with suitable adaptations – such as protecting power plants from water shortages and building resilience into power networks – the worst of the problems could be avoided. Continue reading