Study: Extreme Weather Likely to Put Pressure on Power Systems

    05 March 2020

    A group of scientists are warning that weather extremes in the future and growing demand could lead to a drop in power supplied from renewable energy.

    In a new study, researchers considered how 13 extreme weather models would affect cities in Sweden. Their findings were recently published in Nature Energy.

    A technician works on an electricity pylon as part of maintenance of high-tension electricity power lines, during sunset in Roye, France, February 11, 2019.
    A technician works on an electricity pylon as part of maintenance of high-tension electricity power lines, during sunset in Roye, France, February 11, 2019.

    Many scientists have partly blamed human activities for rising world temperatures and an increase in extreme weather events.

    The world's power systems are expected to face pressure as more of the world's population chooses to live in cities, the study predicts. The United Nations has estimated that 68 percent of people will live in cities by 2050. That compares to about 55 percent who live in cities currently.

    One of the biggest expected pressures to face power systems will be an increase in the use of air conditioning systems because of rising temperatures.

    The research team created a series of climate models to predict how electricity demand was likely to rise and fall in 30 Swedish cities during severe weather events. The models showed "significant" breaks in system performance and a high risk of power blackouts.

    Dasun Perera is with the Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology in Switzerland. He was a lead writer of the study. Perera said in a statement, "We observed that current energy systems are designed in a way that makes them highly susceptible to extreme weather events such as storms and heat waves."

    The researchers found that extreme weather will make it difficult to balance the demand for power with production. "This will make it difficult to match the energy demand and renewable power generation," Perera said. "Dealing with the effects of climate change is going to prove harder than we previously thought."

    Perera told the French Press Agency AFP that extreme weather events could reduce the reliability of power supplies by up to 16 percent. This, he said, could easily lead to "blackouts resulting in huge economic losses."

    Perera said that energy experts do not consider the effects of extreme climate events when planning and designing energy systems.

    In a separate article published in Nature Energy, U.S. and European researchers noted that traditional energy models often fail to consider extreme weather.

    The researchers called on world governments to consider the short-term risks of extreme heat and cold when planning and building energy systems. They said the creation of such systems would require "new thinking, new experiments, and, quite possibly, new combinations of tools."

    The researchers added: "This is a tall order to be sure, but there is no risk in trying."

    I'm Bryan Lynn.

    Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from Agence France-Presse, Nature Energy and the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.

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    Words in This Story

    renewable adj. any naturally occurring kind of energy, such sunlight or wind

    significant adj. important or noticable

    susceptible adj. easily influenced or harmed by something

    match v. to be the same as

    reliability n. ability to be trusted or believed

    order n. a request for a wish to be fulfilled