Energy production, transport and consumption are influenced by climate and must adapt to the effects of climate change.
Temperature is one of the main drivers of energy demand, affecting air conditioning in summer and heating in winter.
Projected change in heating and cooling degree days (EEA)
A particular challenge for the energy sector is to develop synergies between adaptation and mitigation.
In general, this question of adaptation must be considered in the short term, on the existing energy system, but also in the long term, on the post-transition energy system.
Energy vulnerabilities include:
Global warming is expected to increase cooling requirements in summer and reduce heating requirements in winter.
Since cooling is almost exclusively provided by electricity, these changes in demand will directly influence electricity demand. It should also be noted that these individual air conditioners themselves cause a series of nuisances: beyond electricity consumption, they have an aesthetic and acoustic impact, and contribute to strengthening the urban heat island (as they emit heat), which contributes to increasing their use.
In terms of production, both conventional and renewable systems will be affected by climate change. Higher temperatures can affect the cooling of power plants and reduce the efficiency of thermal power plants (nuclear and fossil).
In the event of prolonged periods of drought, the availability of cooling water for power plants will decrease, increasing the risk of temporary shutdown.
The supply of renewable energy, which depends on wind, sunshine, water flow and biomass growth conditions, will be affected by climate change. With regard to biomass, global warming is already causing significant problems (bark beetles) that could limit/reduce local potential.
Another potential impact concerns the efficiency of photovoltaics, which decreases with increasing temperature.
In terms of infrastructure, the network will be sensitive to extreme events and high temperatures (electricity distribution networks, fuel transmission networks, wind turbines, etc.). Increased flooding could affect power plants and technical facilities.
Various measures, although not initially developed with a climate change adaptation perspective, contribute to strengthening the sector’s resilience to climate change.
Specific measures have been taken to promote the insulation of buildings as well as to ensure the security of energy supply in Belgium and to react in the event of shortages, in particular:
– For gas: the federal emergency plan;
– For electricity: emergency planning distinguishes between:
- the protection of the electrical system against imbalances (e.g. due to sudden phenomena such as those related to exceptional climatic conditions)
- coordination or management of crisis situations and events at the national level.
- Report of the European Environment Agency: Adaptation challenges and opportunities for the European energy system (2019)
- EU Commission document: staff working document on Adapting Infrastructure to Climate Change (2013); Framework Strategy for a Resilient Energy Union with a Forward-Looking Climate Change Policy (2015)
- OECD : policy paper 14: climate resilient infrastructure – policy perspectives