Source: US Energy Organization

Climate change can directly affect the demand for energy. As temperatures rise, air-conditioning use, especially in summer, is expected to increase. While this will contribute to heightened energy demand, economic development is projected to be the primary driver of rising energy use in low-income, warm-climate countries. Projections of air-conditioning usage over the next century estimate that 25% of the expected increase will be attributable to climate change, while 75% will be attributable to higher incomes.

On the supply side, higher temperatures reduce the efficiency of electricity production and distribution. An increased probability of extreme events also poses a high risk to facilities for hydro, thermal, and renewable energy production, as flooding and debris from high winds can damage production facilities and power grids. Droughts or floods can also hinder fuel supply chains, especially those that rely on barges or rail, hence disrupting distribution. It should be noted that energy supplied from hydropower is particularly sensitive to changes in the hydrological cycle. Whether the mean annual precipitation in the West Africa region will increase or decrease remains uncertain, and professionals in the energy sector should account for this uncertainty when developing energy plans. Changes in precipitation intensity and seasonality can also affect the efficiency of hydropower production; seasonal shifts in inflow and increases in extreme precipitation can result in higher peak flows, which in turn can result in lost output, as the use of bypass channels will result in lost productivity while extreme water volumes increase the likelihood that damage to dams and turbines will occur. As temperatures increase, evaporation will also increase, reducing surface water availability absent comparable increases in precipitation. The effects of droughts on hydropower facilities will be enhanced under warmer climates, as increased evaporation will further reduce the storage buffer and, as a result, lessen the productivity of hydropower stations. Countries with energy sectors highly reliant on hydropower will need to prepare for future uncertainty. Increases in hydropower storage capacity can help offset the potential loss due to changes in peak flows, while investment in other renewable energy sources can help to mitigate against potential reductions in water availability.

As interest in other forms of renewable energy grows, value assessments should consider projected regional changes to relevant climate variables. Biofuel is produced from agricultural products, and like all agricultural products biofuel crops are highly vulnerable to increases in the frequency and intensity of drought. Sea level rise and extreme rainfall can also damage biofuel crops, as can reductions in the availability of water. Increases in mean temperatures are expected to stress biofuel production moderately. Solar and wind energy remain relatively resilient to drought, changes in the variability of water flow, and rising temperatures. Changes in surface winds can affect the productivity of wind turbines, as a reduction in mean wind velocity can reduce productivity while extremely high winds can damage wind energy infrastructure. Sea level rise and storm surge can cause flooding and thus pose a moderate threat to all forms of renewables, as salt water incursion can damage cropland and solar and wind energy infrastructure. An increase in extreme rainfall and flooding poses a high threat to all forms of energy production, including all forms of renewable energy, which can damage production infrastructure, and power grids, and disturb distribution paths. However, decentralized systems, such as solar micro-grids, can increase energy sector resilience to natural hazards, and may be particularly appealing in remote regions where connections to larger grids are more costly.

Figure 2.2 Summary of relative risk of climate stressors to Ghana’s Power system.
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