Australia To See World's Biggest Drop In Hydropower Thanks To Climate Change

Research into climate change has shown that more frequent droughts and heatwaves could reduce the ability of electricity plants to generate power by the middle of the century. But for Australia in particular, switching from coal-fired power plants to higher efficiency gas fired plants could help to mitigate the changes, researchers say.

According to the report, changes in water resources and increasing water temperatures will reduce the energy generating capability for a large proportion of hydro and thermoelectric power plants (including nuclear and fossil-fuel) across the globe.

The research suggests that planners need to seriously consider adaptation options if they are to avoid the impacts of water constraints exacerbated by climate change.

Hydro- and thermoelectric (nuclear, fossil-fuelled, biomass-fuelled and geothermal) power currently provides a combined 98 per cent of the world’s electricity supply.

These technologies depend on water availability, with global water consumption for power generation is expected to double within the next 40 years, as economies develop and the population grows.

Researcher Keywan Riahi and colleagues modelled the impact of various climate-induced changes in water resources on 24,515 hydropower plants and 1,427 thermoelectric power plants across the globe.

They found that reductions in streamflow and increased water temperatures could reduce the electricity generating capacity of up to 86 per cent of thermoelectric power plants and up to 74 per cent of hydropower plants in the dataset.

Results also showed that global annual hydropower capacities are expected to fall by up to 3.6 per cent in the 2050s and 6.1 per cent in the 2080s, as a consequence of reduced streamflow.

They also project that the monthly power capacity of the majority of thermoelectric power plants will drop by up to 30 per cent in the 2050s.

However, the authors suggest that increasing the efficiency of hydropower plants by 10 per cent could be enough to offset the annual reductions in capacity. Changing cooling systems and switching from coal to gas could also offset much of the capacity reduction in thermoelectric power plants under a low-emissions scenario.

[Nature]


Comments

    People should start embracing solar power more in their homes.

    Are you going to pay ?
    Or are you just going to take the lazy option and expect the government to enforce this ?

      But that way we all pay! :D That's better than just some of us paying.

        The people that don't pay will end up paying anyway. As more people move to solar, the power companies will be making less so will need to raise prices to keep thing going for the rest of us.

          But the benefit to letting the government decide who pays compared to letting market forces decide who pays is that the government's taxation takes into consideration the relative earning power and impact on proportion of income, hence tax brackets etc. Whereas what we've seen already from power companies is that a shift to increase of the base price to support maintenance of infrastructure over the price of heavy usage is that prices have increased in percentage noticably for smaller households (such as energy-cost-conscious pensioners of 1-2 people per household), whereas large families don't notice as much of a difference.

    Now is the time to invest in the most modern nuclear power technology available.
    Let coal continue to handle baseload demands until the alternatives are in place.

      That would be sensible, but people are irrationally terrified of nuclear power for some reason.

        Irrational? Justifiably terrified?

        Fukushima?

        One of the world's most technologically advanced nations couldn't control it.

          Yeah, terrible example. A forty-year-old power plant which had few if any of the modern safety improvements. Not even close to relevant.

          Last edited 05/01/16 4:03 pm

        My problem is that the raw materials, the process and the waste are are all lethal for humans, and on large scale, if not handled correctly. Compared to other things like coal or many renewable energies that are, relatively, benign.

        The proper handling of those materials and the power generation process is key and properly done there is no need to fear it, as you say, but ensuring that and ensuring it over the life of the power plant AND the radioactive life of the waste is a difficult thing. It has to account for human error, extreme natural events, changes in political climates, funding, etc. etc. Most, maybe all, of the countries using nuclear power have had incidents of varying degrees over the lives of their plants. Not all are full meltdowns, but even leaking waste and other incidents that have caused no immediate death or injury can have devastating long term effects.

        I'm not saying nuclear power is evil or shouldn't be considered but I think to call the some people's fear irrational is wrong.

          It's an irrational fear in its proportion. You're several orders of magnitude more likely to be killed within 50m of your home on a road that connects to your home than you are to be affected by nuclear power plant mishap, but no-one objects to having a road connect to their house.

          There's a huge gain to be had, and minimal risks, but people are disproportionately opposed.

          Last edited 05/01/16 4:06 pm

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