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GSR 2015

124 07 FEATURE: USING RENEWABLES FOR CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION Modularity: Numerous renewable energy technologies are modular in designi ; they are scalable, allowing for units to be added (or brought on line) as changes are required in energy services. The relatively short planning cycle for many renewable energy technologies provides a level of flexibility not found in fossil fuel- or nuclear-powered generation—months versus years. This can be particularly important when populations are uprooted by climate change, as is occurring in many low-lying island states.14 The modularity of renewables (especially for some solar technologies) also allows for the quick provision of services in emergency situations.15 Hurricane Sandy was a devastating storm that affected the entire Atlantic coastline of the United States, as well as inland communities, and left 8.5 million people without power.16 In the New York area of Long Island, 90% of Long Island Power Authority’s (LIPA’s) 1.1 million customers had no power for days and in some cases weeks. In the interim, renewables provided needed power. The Solar Sandy Project, for example, supplied mobile solar generatorsii to an area where LIPA had struggled to restore power, providing critical energy services to people affected by the outage.17 Distributed and Decentralised Deployment: Renewable energy technologies can be distributed; hence, weather-related events are less likely to adversely affect large portions of the power supply infrastructure to a great extent.18 Moreover, distributed systems can continue to perform even if the connection of one or more of the units to the grid is disrupted. The systems have the potential to recover function, reduce cascading blackouts, restore critical services faster, and ensure overall security of supply.19 However, most grid-connected renewable energy power today needs a grid to synchronise. Thus, in the case of a central power system failure, distributed generation also fails. This limitation is not due to the technology itself, but rather is a result of how the grid is managed. Some countries, such as Germany, are seeking to address this issue by implementing methods to stabilise the grid in extreme events.20 Redundancy: The traditional way to increase system resilience is to build redundancy into the system. This entails having multiple distribution systems available so that if one form of delivery— for example, transmission lines—is not functioning, there is an alternative way to ensure access to energy, either from the initial power source or by bringing an alternative system on line. A common way to establish electric power redundancy is to install backup generation. In many countries, regulations require critical facilities (refineries, hospitals, data and communication centres, etc.) to have backup power systems, which are typically diesel-powered. Renewables may be suitable in many instances to replace these diesel generation backup systems, which are dependent on a regular fuel supply, costly, and often polluting.21 Availability: Renewable resources in one form or another are available wherever people live, albeit with greater variety and/ or better resources in some areas than others.iii Whichever are in greatest abundance in a particular location can be used to power renewable energy technologies to meet energy needs. Moreover, fuel storage and transport are vulnerable when infrastructure—road, rail, docks—is damaged through sea- level rise, storm surge, landslides, flooding, and high winds. Using locally available renewable resources avoids potential disruptions in the fuel delivery chain.22 Diversity: A diverse portfolio of renewable resources can help to hedge the climatic stresses that individual resource types may face. Several regions of the world rely heavily on large-scale hydropower for electricity supply: for example, it accounts for 50–60% of electricity in Latin America. Complementing existing hydro-dependent energy systems with non-hydro systems is one approach to reducing vulnerabilities.iv In response to hydropower shortfalls, Brazil, Kenya, and Uruguay, among other countries, are expanding other renewable energy capacity to hedge hydropower risks.23 i - Examples include solar PV, wind, solar water heating and cooling, and biomass digesters. ii - The generators were used to charge phones, heat food, and run other critical equipment. The area also was served by Rolling Sunlight, a massive, mobile, solar power array strapped to a truck. Run by Greenpeace, the system is able to store 50 kWh of energy. The solar panels charge an array of batteries inside the truck, which then feeds an inverter, generating 120/240 AC. The system can run enough lights to keep a decently sized area lit through the night. iii - For example, the availability of modern (sustainably produced) biomass can vary significantly by region. iv - For example, in drought-stricken Brazil, a severe drop in water availability has reduced hydropower generation and has led to blackouts across the country.

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