Energy supply – Adaptation


In energy supply, impacts of climate change should be prepared for in the production of water power and transmission and distribution of electricity in particular. Decentralisation of energy production on a local level and diversifying energy sources decrease the risks related to climate change while improving service security. In addition, mitigation goals and changes in energy demand have an impact on the industry's future.

Impacts of climate change apply to the entire energy production chain

In energy supply, adaptation challenges are divided into three phases:

  • Production of energy in the production plants,
  • Transmission of energy and
  • Availability of energy sources.

Production of water power is particularly dependent on the climate conditions. In the future, the regulation practices of many lakes should be made more flexible as the peak flow rates even out with decreasing spring floods. Local changing needs can be assessed in connection to flood risk mapping, for example.

The maintenance and service security of the electrical power network can be improved by developing the distribution network more durable (with underground cabling or widening the power line corridors) or easier to maintain by transferring the lines alongside roads. Replacing the small 20kV power lines that run in forests in some places with higher 110kV lines and local distribution substations could reduce damage.

Bioenergy introduces both possibilities and challenges

From the point of view of municipalities, utilising biomass can be both a challenge and opportunity. As the climate warms, the growth of forest biomass accelerates slightly but its collection becomes more difficult with decreasing ground frost and the carrying capacity of the forest soil and forest roads becoming weaker. Along with decreased precipitation in the summer, the conditions for peat production seem to improve. However, actual energy plants should not compete unnecessarily with food plants for farmland and resources.

Implementation of solar and wind energy requires assessment of local production and consumption conditions. In the light of the current knowledge, natural conditions (topography of the terrain, for example) have a bigger impact on the production than climate change. In all likelihood, the changing climate will have only minor effect on the production of fossil fuels and nuclear energy. The temperatures of cooling waters in nuclear and condensing power plants may rise in the summer which may decrease their performance.

Climate change will also have an impact on the demand for energy

In the energy industry, investment decisions are large and long-lived which emphasises the need for anticipation for the long term effects of climate change. Over the long term, climate change will reduce the need for heating but increase the need for cooling energy and possibly also electricity. In other words, combined heat and energy plants need to produce less energy while larger cities may be faced with the need to build a district cooling system.

Savings could be made in electricity transmission fees and the surplus heat created in electricity production utilised, if local heat units or energy terminals were established. In addition, peaks in consumption could be evened out locally by saving electricity, utilising local bioenergy plants or by connecting the network with small temporary storages of electricity. Municipal energy plants provide a good opportunity to transfer to sustainable energy production.

References [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6]