Climate change not expected to significantly impact Europe’s electricity demand


Brussels, Belgium — (METERING.COM) — January 10, 2011 – Climate change is not expected to significantly impact Europe’s overall electricity demand with increases in demand for cooling approximately balancing decreases in demand for heating.

According to the findings of a study completed under the European Union’s ADAM (Adaption and Mitigation Strategies: Supporting European Climate Policy) project, over the next 100 years, climate change could cause up to a 20 percent decrease in demand for electricity for heating in Northern Europe and up to a 20 percent increase in demand for electricity for cooling in Southern Europe.

The study, which assumed global temperature increases of well above 2°C and focused on changes in demand at the level of individuals and households, found that an increase in temperature has an impact on electricity consumption four times the size of the equivalent decrease in temperature. This could be because cooling (such as air conditioning) requires more energy than a “similar” amount of heating, especially as there are other options for heating, such as wood and gas. Cooling, on the other hand, can only be powered by electricity.

This means that there is likely to be an increase in electricity demand in the South. For example, Greece’s consumption was estimated to rise by 10 percent and Turkey’s by 18.6 percent. However, in the Northern countries it is estimated that there will be a fall in consumption. For example, Latvia would reduce its consumption by 19.5 percent and Lithuania by 20.8 percent. For central Europeans, the increases in summer temperatures and reductions in winter temperatures come fairly close to levelling out over the year.

The average consumption across the countries is 3,244 kWh per year. This means the estimated changes in consumption caused by temperature change are small: 0.3 kWh per year per capita for a unit (1°C for one day) of temperature increase and 1.2 kWh per year per capita per unit of temperature decrease.

Compared to the potential impacts of changes in income, demography and technology, these effects are small. However, the estimation does not consider future changes in supply or the more detailed regional and seasonal effects on supply and transfer of electricity, which may have an impact on price and therefore consumption. For example, there may be greater demand in hotter and colder months or in certain geographical areas. Lastly the study does not include other effects of climate change that might indirectly influence electricity demand, such as changes in wealth and energy efficiency, or new technologies, such as electric cars.

Electricity consumption is instrumental in adapting to climate change in terms of our reliance on heating and cooling needs in the face of future temperature changes. About 27 percent of residential consumption is for heating and cooling.