Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

US and European energy supplies vulnerable to climate change

Date:
June 3, 2012
Source:
International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
Summary:
Higher water temperatures and reduced river flows in Europe and the United States in recent years have resulted in reduced production, or temporary shutdown, of several thermoelectric power plants, resulting in increased electricity prices and raising concerns about future energy security in a changing climate. A new study projects further disruption to supply, with a likely decrease in thermoelectric power generating capacity of between 6-19% in Europe and 4-16% in the United States for the period 2031-2060, due to lack of cooling water.

Higher water temperatures and reduced river flows in Europe and the United States in recent years have resulted in reduced production, or temporary shutdown, of several thermoelectric power plants, resulting in increased electricity prices and raising concerns about future energy security in a changing climate.
Credit: © Carlos Caetano / Fotolia

Higher water temperatures and reduced river flows in Europe and the United States in recent years have resulted in reduced production, or temporary shutdown, of several thermoelectric power plants, resulting in increased electricity prices and raising concerns about future energy security in a changing climate.

Related Articles


Thermoelectric (nuclear or fossil-fuelled) power plants, supply 91% and 78% of total electricity in the US and Europe respectively, thus disruption to their operation is a significant concern for the energy sector.

A study just published in Nature Climate Change projects further disruption to supply, with a likely decrease in thermoelectric power generating capacity of between 6-19% in Europe and 4-16% in the United States for the period 2031-2060, due to lack of cooling water. The likelihood of extreme (>90%) reductions in thermoelectric power generation will, on average, increase by a factor of three.

Compared to other water use sectors (e.g. industry, agriculture, domestic use), the thermoelectric power sector is one of the largest water users in the US (at 40%) and in Europe (43% of total surface water withdrawals). While much of this water is 'recycled' the power plants rely on consistent volumes of water, at a particular temperature, to prevent overheating of power plants. Reduced water availability and higher water temperatures -- caused by increasing ambient air temperatures associated with climate change -- are therefore significant issues for electricity supply.

According to the authors, while recirculation (cooling) towers will be affected, power plants that rely on 'once-through cooling' are the most vulnerable. These plants pump water direct from rivers, lakes, or the sea, to cool the turbine condensers, water is then returned to its source, often at temperatures significantly higher than when the water entered the plant, causing yet another problem, that of downstream thermal pollution.

"Higher electricity prices and disruption to supply are significant concerns for the energy sector and consumers, but another growing concern is the environmental impact of increasing water temperatures on river ecosystems, affecting, for example, life cycles of aquatic organisms," says Michelle van Vliet, from Wageningen University and Research Centre.

Both the US and Europe have strict environmental standards with regard to the volume of water withdrawn and the temperature of the water discharged from power plants. Thus warm periods coupled with low river flows can lead to conflicts between environmental objectives and energy production. Additionally, given the substantial investments and the long-life expectancy (50-60 years) of thermoelectric power plants, such projections are important for the electricity sector such that it can adapt to changes in cooling water availability and plan infrastructure investments accordingly.

One adaptation strategy is to reduce reliance on freshwater sources and replace with saltwater, according to co-author Pavel Kabat, Director/CEO of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA). "However given the life expectancy of power plants and the inability to relocate them to an alternative water source, this is not an immediate solution but should be factored into infrastructure planning. Another option is to switch to new gas-fired power plants that are both more efficient than nuclear- or fossil fuel- power plants and that also use less water."

The study focused on 61 power plants in central and eastern US and 35 power plants in Europe, both nuclear and coal-fired power plants with different cooling systems were included. Considering the projected increase in demand for electricity in these regions and globally, the study reinforces the need for improved climate adaptation strategies in the thermoelectric power sector to ensure future energy security and environmental objectives are not compromised.

The projections are based on new research that combines hydrological and water temperature models over the twenty-first century with an electricity production model. The models consider two contrasting scenarios for the energy sector -- one of low levels of technological change in the energy sector and one that assumes environmental sustainability and a rapid transition to renewable energy.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Michelle T. H. van Vliet, John R. Yearsley, Fulco Ludwig, Stefan Vφgele, Dennis P. Lettenmaier, Pavel Kabat. Vulnerability of US and European electricity supply to climate change. Nature Climate Change, 2012; DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1546

Cite This Page:

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA). "US and European energy supplies vulnerable to climate change." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 June 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120603191619.htm>.
International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA). (2012, June 3). US and European energy supplies vulnerable to climate change. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120603191619.htm
International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA). "US and European energy supplies vulnerable to climate change." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/06/120603191619.htm (accessed October 25, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

EU Gets Climate Deal, UK PM Gets Knock

EU Gets Climate Deal, UK PM Gets Knock

Reuters - Business Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) — EU leaders achieve a show of unity by striking a compromise deal on carbon emissions. But David Cameron's bid to push back EU budget contributions gets a slap in the face as the European Commission demands an extra 2bn euros. David Pollard reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) — Miniature deep sea animals discovered off the Australian coast almost three decades ago are puzzling scientists, who say the organisms have proved impossible to categorise. Academics at the Natural History of Denmark have appealed to the world scientific community for help, saying that further information on Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides could answer key evolutionary questions. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Tornado Rips Roofs in Washington State

Raw: Tornado Rips Roofs in Washington State

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) — A rare tornado ripped roofs off buildings, uprooted trees and shattered windows Thursday afternoon in the southwest Washington city of Longview, but there were no reports of injuries. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fast-Moving Lava Headed For Town On Hawaii's Big Island

Fast-Moving Lava Headed For Town On Hawaii's Big Island

Newsy (Oct. 24, 2014) — Lava from the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island has accelerated as it travels toward a town called Pahoa. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins