It is widely expected that many aspects of European climate may change over the course of the 21st Century. Climate simulations consistently show an increase in surface air temperature over Europe, though corresponding projections for near-surface wind speeds and surface solar irradiance differ between climate models, and exhibit high levels of internal variability. The emergence of anthropogenic climate trends has been studied extensively in the climate science literature yet understanding of how climate change and its uncertainties relate to key power system components (particularly, demand, solar PV, and wind power) remains limited. The aims of this study are to understand how climate change may affect renewable supply and demand under plausible future European power system scenarios.
Projections of national demand, wind power and solar PV production across Europe are taken from the freely-available C3S European Climatic Energy Mixes (ECEM) demonstrator. Demand, wind power production and solar power production data for 32 European countries are used to create European scale annual-mean demand-net-renewables (DNR) for multiple plausible future energy scenarios (based on eHighway2050), using 6 different EURO-CORDEX regional climate models under two climate change scenarios (RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5), spanning the period 1980-2065..
If today’s power system were to remain unchanged for the next 40-50 years then the impact of climate change scenarios on European-total annual-mean DNR is estimated to be modest (reductions of few percent compared to present day), with corresponding national-totals changing by slightly more. In general, there is a reasonable consensus on the sign and magnitude of the DNR projections produced by the different climate models, consistent with the response being dominated by changes in demand (and therefore temperature rather than wind or insolation). In contrast, climate responses for alternative power system scenarios – particularly those with a greater reliance on renewable generation – exhibit much greater sensitivity to both climate change and climate model selection.
Such gross figures, however, also obscure significant differences in climate responses by country and season. Typically, winter demand is projected to decrease whereas summer demand may increase (or decrease only slightly), with the dominant seasonal component depending strongly on location. Many national- and seasonal- scale renewable projections also exhibit considerable spread between different climate simulations – often spanning a range several times greater than the multi-model mean climate response - indicating that climate sensitivities significantly greater than that suggested by the multi-model mean should not be ruled out.