Renewable energy can benefit from a changing climate

A warmer and wetter climate may have positive feedback on renewable energy sources. Better conditions for hydropower and biomass energy can be expected. A new analysis has been performed by Nordic and Baltic researchers.

The Nordic Council of Ministers has published a new report on the impacts of 21st century climate changes on the development and use of renewable energy in the Nordic and Baltic countries.

The report is the final product of a comprehensive research project, Climate and Energy Systems, which involved 30 scientific institutes and companies in the eight countries during the years 2007-2011.

Main emphasis was on the impacts of climate change on the production and safety of hydropower, wind power and biomass energy. The results indicate mainly beneficial impacts of a warmer, wetter climate on renewable energy sources.

Increase in hydropower and bioenenergy

Climate scenarios developed for the period 2021-2050 (in comparison with 1961-1990) indicate continuing atmospheric warming in the region. The largest warming ( about 3°C) will take place during winter in the north-eastern part of Fennoscandia, while summertime warming will be about 1-2°C all over the Nordic and Baltic region.

Precipitation is expected to increase moderately but little change is expected in mean wind speed. The volume of glaciers will be dramatically reduced during the 21st century, resulting in increased meltwater delivery during the middle part of the century.

Snow accumulation is likely to decrease, as will snowmelt floods during spring. The size of extreme floods will become larger in some regions but smaller in others, depending on precipitation changes, snow accumulation and changes in evaporation. Increased runoff in some regions will lead to greater inflow to hydropower reservoirs, allowing an increase in hydropower production.

Increased growth rates of forests will enable a substantial increase in the production of bioenergy and increased levels of biofuel production from peat deposits are also expected.

Ökat nederbörd
Examples of climate scenarios for precipitation, changes in % from 1961-1990 to 2021-2050, as an average over 15 regional climate model scenarios. Left map shows winter period and right map summer period. Enlarge Image