Articles | Volume 8, issue 4
Earth Syst. Dynam., 8, 1047–1060, 2017
Earth Syst. Dynam., 8, 1047–1060, 2017
Research article
29 Nov 2017
Research article | 29 Nov 2017

More homogeneous wind conditions under strong climate change decrease the potential for inter-state balancing of electricity in Europe

Jan Wohland1,2, Mark Reyers3, Juliane Weber1,2, and Dirk Witthaut1,2 Jan Wohland et al.
  • 1Forschungszentrum Jülich, Institute for Energy and Climate Research (IEK-STE), 52428 Jülich, Germany
  • 2Institute for Theoretical Physics, University of Cologne, 50937 Cologne, Germany
  • 3Institute for Geophysics and Meteorology, University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany

Abstract. Limiting anthropogenic climate change requires the fast decarbonization of the electricity system. Renewable electricity generation is determined by the weather and is hence subject to climate change. We simulate the operation of a coarse-scale fully renewable European electricity system based on downscaled high-resolution climate data from EURO-CORDEX. Following a high-emission pathway (RCP8.5), we find a robust but modest increase (up to 7 %) of backup energy in Europe through the end of the 21st century. The absolute increase in the backup energy is almost independent of potential grid expansion, leading to the paradoxical effect that relative impacts of climate change increase in a highly interconnected European system. The increase is rooted in more homogeneous wind conditions over Europe resulting in intensified simultaneous generation shortfalls. Individual country contributions to European generation shortfall increase by up to 9 TWh yr−1, reflecting an increase of up to 4 %. Our results are strengthened by comparison with a large CMIP5 ensemble using an approach based on circulation weather types.

Short summary
Solar and wind energy generation are weather dependent and can not be switched on when needed. Despite this, stable electricity supply can be obtained by aggregation over large areas, for example Europe. However, we show that strong climate change impedes spatial balancing of electricity because countries are more likely to suffer from simultaneous generation shortfall. As a consequence, local scarcity can less often be balanced by imports.
Final-revised paper