How resilient is the European energy system to future climate change?

This project has addressed the issue of climate change adaptation and the energy system. Increases in extreme weather events, and ambient temperatures, sea level rise, changes to wind patterns and water levels and availability will each have important impacts and pose risks to the energy system. The energy system is vulnerable in different ways in different places, depending on the climate and characteristics of the energy system and many other factors. There is also considerable variation in what could and should be done, and also with what is actually taking place through policies and actions by actors in and around the energy system. This study explored each of these issues to understand the key risks, state of response and what more could and should be done, and sharing good practice from existing actions.

This work follows on from a scoping study prepared for the EEA in 2017-18. The goal of the work is to provide the basis for a full EEA publication on this topic in 2019.

The main observations from the study were as follows:

  • The key vulnerabilities of the European energy system to climate change include: the demand for heating and cooling will encounter significant seasonal shifts; the availability of cooling water for thermal power generation will be limited; electricity production will be negatively affected by changes in precipitation, temperature, storm frequencies and intensity; extreme weather events will expose primary energy production, transport and storage infrastructure to various risks.
  • Adaptation to climate change is often not perceived as an urgent challenge by many stakeholders, therefore measures which improve the resilience of the energy system need to be financially attractive for private firms whilst enabling co-benefits to be delivered.
  • The key barriers to adaptation include: lack of knowledge, awareness, information and capacity; uncertainty about the future; market and financial barriers, and policy barriers
  • Private actors can support building a climate resilient energy system by investing in staff capacity and skills for climate change, review investment appraisal approaches, and ensure that risk assessments are carried out.
  • Public actors can assist in building a climate resilient energy system by supporting further knowledge development, establishing specific funds for energy system adaptation, share risks and investments through public-private partnerships, and consider introducing reporting requirements for strategic energy firms.