The coal, gas and nuclear power plants that generate most of the world’s electricity have to be kept cool in order to function properly. However, this will be increasingly challenging as the world gets warmer. Waste heat from these facilities is typically released into the atmosphere or nearby water sources. During heatwaves or droughts, excessive heat or a lack of water makes it much harder for plants to be kept cool. When this happens, the plants must be curbed, meaning electricity output is cut. This often comes just as electricity demand peaks due to people’s increasing reliance on air conditioning to keep cool. In a new paper, published in Environmental Research Letters, we find that in a warming world, hundreds of additional power plants would need to be constructed in the coming decades simply to make up for this lost power. However, this is not the only option. If nations instead focus on technologies such as solar and wind, which produce fewer emissions and are less impacted by hot weather, the electricity sector will be both less of a contributor to – and victim of – climate change.
Carbon Brief 15th Feb 2021 read more »