Over the next 95 years, electricity consumption in northern Europe is expected to drop, while consumption in the south will rise in order to power air conditioning and cooling devices in the future, a study has claimed.
The study was published in a peer-reviewed journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and forecasted change electricity use across the continent based on various present data one variation of energy use according to things like population size and, importantly, temperature.
The study’s lead author, Leonie Wenz of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, said that their findings showed that “total electricity use [across the 35 European countries studied] seems to be smallest on days with a maximum temperature of about 22°C (72°F), and increases when this daily maximum temperature either rises or falls.”
Based on this, she explained, they could look forwards and forecast changes in electricity consumption in the various countries as global temperatures shift from now until the end of the current century.
“We use this common characteristic as a basis for estimating future electricity consumption under climate change – that is beyond the current temperature range. That way, those European countries that are already experiencing very hot temperatures today serve as examples for the future of cooler countries.
“It turns out that electricity demand in Europe will shift from countries like Sweden or Norway to countries like Portugal or Spain. Concurrently, the annual peak load will shift from winter to summer in most countries.”
The study focused on change over the period between now and 2100, under various scenarios differing according to the amount of effort expending on mitigating climate change. Over this period, there is expected to be a significant increase in average daily peak load and electricity consumption in southern and western Europe, and the opposite in the north. For example, daily peak load in Norway is set to drop by between 2.4% and 4.2%, but set to increase in Portugal by between 2.4% and 5.6%.
The net effect of this change on Europe’s electricity consumption as a whole is expected to be negligible, but without appropriate change, the shift will put a serious strain on existing energy infrastructure in the hotter countries.
Increased roll-out of solar arrays is one possible way to subdue the shock to existing systems, and is something that will become increasingly effective as increased heat increases demand for power.
Air conditioning generally is responsible for a huge portion of the world’s energy consumption and, as a result, greenhouse gas emissions. As its use is set to increase as several countries get warmer and wealthier, the importance of mitigating negative effects on the climate grows.
And it’s not just greenhouse gas emissions that will be effected by rising temperatures, as the report’s co-author Max Auffhammer explained.
He said: “There now is ample evidence that when it’s hot outside, air quality suffers, people are more stressed, aggressive, violent and less productive, mortality and crime rates rise. All sectors of the economy are affected by thermal stress, from the residential to the commercial, agricultural to the industrial sector.”