Europe’s electricity future could be both green and consistent, even as climate change warms the continent, according to a new study. That’s good news for Europeans who are trying to shift their power grids toward wind and solar power and away from traditional power plants.
The study, published today in the journal Joule, investigates how the effects of climate change on wind, sunlight, and temperature might change electricity supply and demand in the future. Researchers led by graduate student Smail Kozarcanin at Aarhus University in Denmark primarily looked at the electricity generation side of the story, including how much wind and solar power feeds into the grid. They found that if a renewable grid can handle the shifts in sun and wind today, it should be able to handle them in the future — even if it gets really warm.
There’s a catch, however: the researchers didn’t look at how extreme weather exacerbated by climate change might, say, topple power lines in storms or incinerate them in wildfires. Paul Deane, a renewable energy researcher at University College Cork in Ireland who was not involved in the study, calls the results good news — with a word of caution. “To understand that Europe is relatively resilient to these climate change impacts in terms of weather-driven resources, that’s quite good,” he says. But, he adds, “it doesn’t mean the power system gets a clean bill of health.”