Energy is at the heart of the challenges of achieving both the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change.
“Renewable energy sources and energy efficiency play a key role in providing energy services in a sustainable manner and, in particular, in mitigating against and adapting to climate change,” according to a new World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) report.
The 2022 WMO State of Climate Services report focuses on energy, a topic that continues to dominate discussion and debate because it affects every single community, business, sector, and economy around the world.
The report examines how countries can achieve net zero emissions electricity production and increased energy efficiency by 2050, with a switch to lower emissions electricity production and increased energy efficiency at the heart of the global response.
This clean energy transition necessitates investment in improved weather, water, and climate services, which can be used to ensure energy infrastructure is resilient to climate-related shocks and inform measures to increase energy efficiency across multiple sectors.
Using data, analysis, and a series of case studies, the report illustrates and explains how countries ranging from Italy to Tajikistan can improve their energy infrastructure, resilience, and security by investing in better climate services.
“In the midst of the race to net zero emissions (NZE), the impact of global temperature increase continues to raise concerns about energy security.
“Changes in climate pose significant risks to the energy sector, directly affecting fuel supply, energy production, physical resilience of current and future energy infrastructure, and energy demand,” part of the report stated.
According to the report, heatwaves and droughts caused by anthropogenic climate change are already stressing existing energy generation, making the net zero transition even more urgent.
The report captured figures that show that, in 2020, for example, water availability was directly responsible for 87% of global electricity generated by thermal, nuclear, and hydroelectric systems.
Meanwhile, 33% of thermal power plants that rely on freshwater availability for cooling are already located in areas with high water stress.
It said that nuclear power plants account for 15% of existing capacity, with that figure expected to rise to 25% in the next 20 years. In addition, 11% of hydroelectric capacity is located in water-stressed areas.
Furthermore, approximately 26% of existing hydropower dams and 23% of planned dams are located in river basins with a medium to very high risk of water scarcity.
Because most countries are likely to experience more frequent or intense extreme weather, water, and climate events, which will have an impact on nuclear power plants, rely on water for cooling but are also frequently located in low-lying coastal areas, making them vulnerable to sea-level rise and weather-related flooding.
“For example, the Turkey Point nuclear plant in Florida (United States of America), which
sits right at sea level, will be threatened in the coming decades. In January 2022, massive power outages caused by a historic heatwave in Buenos Aires, Argentina affected around 700 000 people.
“In November 2020, freezing rain coated power lines in the Far East of the Russian Federation, leaving hundreds of thousands of homes without electricity for several days. Despite these risks, energy security is a low priority for adaptation.”
According to the report, only 40% of nationally determined contributions (NDCs) submitted by Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) prioritize adaptation in the energy sector, and this lack of recognition has resulted in a lack of demand and finance. Climate adaptation investments in the energy sector remain extremely low, totalling just over $300 million per year in 2019-2020.
Contribution of renewable energy to a sustainable future
“All countries should be making a concerted effort to transition to low-carbon energy. The energy sector is the largest source of GHG emissions, accounting for almost three-quarters of global emissions. In 2020, CO2 concentrations reached 149% of pre-industrial levels. Supply from low-emissions sources needs to double by 2030 if the world is to reach net zero by 2050, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA),” it said.
According to the new report, the total energy supply will fall by between 7% and 50% (up to 65%). According to the IEA, low-emission energy sources will account for 16 per cent of the total energy supply by 2030, representing a significant increase from the current level of around 25%.
“A transition to renewable energy, therefore, constitutes an essential contribution to alleviating growing global water stresses.”
According to the report, current pledges made by countries fall far short of what is required to meet the Paris Agreement’s objectives of limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, leaving a 70% gap in the amount of emissions reductions required by 2030.
It also stated that the 3.7 TW from renewables pledged in the 56% of NDCs with quantified renewable power targets in 2030, if implemented, would be less than half of what is required to keep the 2 °C goal alive. To meet the Paris Agreement’s long-term global temperature goal, 7.1 TW of clean energy capacity must be installed by 2030.
According to the World Bank, the necessary policies and regulations to enable decarbonisation in the energy sector remain particularly weak in Africa, South America, and Asia. And there is particularly low recognition of the need for services to support renewable energy – only 6% of NDCs mention climate services for energy mitigation.
Weather, water and climate services are crucial for energy security to achieve net zero
Because renewable energy systems are weather and climate-dependent, the report calls for improved climate information and services for the energy sector.
“Climate services are needed to ensure the resilience of energy systems to climate-related shocks and to inform measures to increase energy efficiency. Risk assessments addressing planning and early warning of adverse events affecting energy supply and demand can help populations to anticipate, absorb, accommodate and recover from adverse impacts.
For example, early weather warnings can safeguard energy supply in Beijing (China), climate stress tests can ensure effective electricity distribution in the Dolomites region of Italy, and severe weather warnings can protect offshore wind power production in China.
“Climate services are also essential for renewable energy, including for site selection, resource assessment and financing; operations, maintenance and management of energy systems; electricity integration into the grid; and impact assessment of energy systems.”