Heatwaves, drought may curb global electricity output

Paris, January 5

Thousands of power plants worldwide face sharp reductions in electricity output by mid-century due to more frequent heatwaves and drought driven by global warming, according to a study published on Monday.

“We need to be concerned as electricity will become more expensive and less reliable in the future due to climate change,” co-author Keywan Riahi of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria told AFP.

If warming continues unchecked, higher temperatures and water shortages could, by 2050, cut capacity in hydro-electric plants by nearly four per cent, and in thermoelectric plants — powered by fossil fuels, nuclear power or biomass — by 12 per cent.

Even if the target embraced at Paris climate summit in December is met — limiting global temperature rise to less than two degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels — power capacity would still drop significantly, as per the research.

Hydro- and thermo-electric plants, which together provide 98 per cent of the global electricity supply, both depend on water to cool machinery or generate power.

Improvements in efficiency and switching types of fuel, however, would be one way to avoid future shortages of water and power, the study said.

Especially vulnerable regions include the United States, southern South America, southern Africa, central and southern Europe, and southeast Asia.

The study analysed data from nearly four-fifths of the world’s hydro-electric plants, and more than a quarter of thermo-electric ones.