How Climate Change Will Affect Electricity Supplies

published Jul 01, 2021
1 min read

Power Plant

Climate change is very real and is beginning to affect all aspects of our life. If we don’t change our ways and begin to halt or even reverse the impact soon, life as we know it will become unrecognizable.

We know that droughts are becoming more frequent across the world and communities who rely on agriculture are suffering major crop loss and livestock mortality. On the flip side, we also know that floods and extreme weather conditions are also on the rise, so where droughts kill crops, those that survive may be taken out by excessive flooding and rainfall.

Sea levels are rising and wildfires are becoming more common, displacing thousands of people and animals and destroying entire ecosystems. If all this wasn’t bad enough, climate change will also affect electricity supplies, and here’s how.

Electricity Sources

You might think wind farms and solar farms are popping up everywhere and contributing a lot to the generation of electricity, but they’re not. In fact, only 11% of all the energy produced in the world is from renewable sources. Just 7% came from hydropower, 2% from wind and 1% from solar power.

In relation to electricity alone, 5% came from wind, 2% from solar power and 16% from hydropower. This means the vast majority of energy and electricity is coming from unsustainable sources such as fossil fuels.

How Climate Change Impacts Electricity Demand

As the world gets warmer, the demand for electricity will increase. Whilst the reliance on fossil fuels for heat sources will decrease, more people will be turning to electricity supplies to power air conditioning units and fans. Pair this with more people being born and more people needing a connection to the grid as more houses are built, the demand will further increase.

The question on everyone’s lips is, are energy providers ready for this? Will they be able to keep up with the growing demand? Will people have to take it upon themselves to install their own external water supply? There are doubts, but this isn’t the only problem.

Solar farm

How Electricity Generation Will be Interrupted by Climate Change

As mentioned, the majority of the electricity in the world requires unsustainable materials to generate. Nuclear power plants and fossil fuel power plants require water to cool down the generators. Once-through systems (of which 43% of power plants in the United States are) take water from lakes, oceans, coastlines and rivers. Not only can this cause disruptions to local eco-systems, but it’s becoming increasingly more unreliable.

In order for power plants to cool effectively and efficiently, the water needs to be cool. Oceans absorb a lot of the excess heat in the atmosphere. A study in 2013 found that that oceans absorbed more than 93% of greenhouse gases since 1970. Predictions estimate that ocean temperature could rise by as much as 4˚ by the turn of the century. This means oceans are getting warmer and won’t be as efficient at cooling down power plants, making the process longer.

Pair this with an increasing demand for electricity and the fact that more people will be relying on electricity to combat the more frequent heat waves, it’s easy to see how electricity may become scarce.

How You Can Help

Most global emissions come from big corporations, but everyone can make a difference. Small things you can do include cycling or walking more, using carpools where possible, switching the taps off when you’re not using them, and turning lights or sockets off when they’re not needed.

You can also look to recycle more, compost foods and, if possible, switch to an electric car. This isn’t an option for everyone, but any of the changes listed above could make a difference if everyone did them.