UK energy sector ‘most vulnerable’ to extreme weather

The UK's energy sector is 'most vulnerable' to the affects of extreme weather events, the first comprehensive risk assessment into climate change has warned.

As part of the Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA), the potential threats and opportunities for the UK arising from climate change were assessed, in a bid to develop strategies to help the UK build reliance for the future. It also forms part of the Government’s long-term strategy for dealing with global warming.

The secretary of state for the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) Caroline Spelman presented the full report before parliament today (January 26).

Speaking at the launch of the CCRA, Ms Spelman, said: “This world class research provides the most comprehensive case yet on why we need to take action to adapt the UK and our economy to the impacts of climate change.

“It shows what life could be like if we stopped our preparations now, and the consequences such a decision would mean for our economic stability.”

While flooding and water scarcity were cited as the worst risk for the UK, the energy sector also received a stark warning as the assessment found flooding and water shortages to have a direct impact on energy suppliers. Drought caused by lower sea levels, it warns, could place constraints on water availability for power station operations.

Committee on climate change chair Lord John Krebs, warned: “Without an effective plan to prepare for the risks from climate change the country may sleepwalk into disaster”, adding that the report
represents “demonstrates why the UK needs to take action to adapt now”.

The assessment also predicts that climate change may reduce the amount of freshwater inland energy stations can abstract for use in cooling, as a result of low river flows in the summer. Heatwaves and drought in some parts of the UK is likely to cause these shortages by the 2080s, according to the study.

Although the report predicts milder winters will lead to a reduction in energy demand, it warns that higher summer temperatures could result in a rise in energy demand for cooling.

To protect the UK’s energy supplies against flood risk the report concludes: “There may be opportunities to increase resilience to flooding as current energy infrastructure reaches the end of its lifetime and is replaced, but this will depend strongly on the design and location of new infrastructure.”

As a result, the energy sector has been tasked by the Government with increasing the resilience of its infrastructure to flooding.

Carys Matthews

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