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GSR 2015 - Renewables for Ensuring Energy Services

125 07 RENEWABLES 2015 GLOBAL STATUS REPORT RENEWABLES FOR ENSURING ENERGY SERVICES In addition to being resilient—as individual, often distributed units, or as part of a larger diversified energy system—renewable energy can ensure the delivery of energy services in direct response to climate change impacts. In Ghana, electricity demand is increasing by 10% annually; however, changing climatic conditions in western Africa have reduced annual precipitation rates and raised average temperatures, thereby reducing hydropower output.24 The result is a national power crisis. The Ghanaian Energy Commission recently indicated that solar energy can help respond to electricity needs while simultaneously addressing concerns about system resilience and independence from fossil fuel imports.25 There also is an emerging discussion that the relationship between climate change and a stable energy supply should be part of the larger discussion on national energy security.26 In the lowlands of Nepal, the changing frequency and intensity of rainfall has forced communities to complement local water supply with pumped groundwater. Solar PV pumps draw up groundwater, which then is purified using solar water-purification systems. The motivation for a renewable-powered system is to ensure stable and resilient energy supply to the water system, to respond to changing rainfall patterns, and to mitigate carbon emissions.27 As noted earlier, climate change can create the conditions for temperatureextremes.Larger-scaleapplications,suchasdistrict cooling and heating systems, can use renewable resources to help meet increased load. Situated in wind-swept, cloud- covered northern Europe, Copenhagen, Denmark, is not the first city to come to mind in need of air conditioning, particularly as summer temperatures rarely exceed mid-20° C. However, the City of Copenhagen expects cooling demand to increase in the coming decades. Peak summer high temperatures, mild compared to warmer climes, are expected to rise 2–3% by 2050, with average daily temperatures rising as well. Using sea water drawn from the city’s harbour in a district cooling system allows the city to adapt to these anticipated temperature rises without increasing carbon emissions.28 MOVING FORWARD There is increasing awareness that in order to provide needed energy services in a climate-constrained environment, future energy systems need to be resilient and to maintain service even under extreme, changing, or unpredictable conditions by being robust, yet flexible and adaptive.29 However, discussion about the specific role of renewables in energy system resilience, and in adaptation activities more broadly, is still relatively limited. Most literature focuses on power infrastructure and looks primarily at how renewable energy can contribute to disaster recovery, as well as at the backup functions that renewables can provide in cases of increased demand or grid failure. Although the impact of climate variability on energy systems is being discussed increasingly (at the national and local levels, in various research fora, through regional initiatives and international bodies such as the UNFCCC, and in an expanding number of documents and studies), the focus primarily is on identifying the impacts currently being witnessed and anticipating future impacts.30 Little is written about the proactive role that renewable energy can play in increasing energy system resilience, and how these technologies can provide services as part of larger adaptation activities. Nonetheless, there are signs that renewables should be considered as an integral part of a climate adaptation strategy. A 2014 US White House report on climate preparedness clearly states that when opportunities arise for planning and investment in the energy sector, climate-resilient, energy-efficient, and clean energy systems should be prioritised.31 The role of renewables has been proven in climate mitigation. As the effects of extreme weather are felt increasingly, more attention will need to be paid to how renewable energy can support adaptation activities so that energy services can be assured. Mitigation and adaptation responses to climate change cannot remain independent of each other. Rather, both responses need to occur simultaneously, illustrating their complementary nature and their collective role in meeting climate change challenges.32

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