Climate change affects the energy sector in multiple ways, ranging from changes in heating and cooling demand; to impacts on energy supply conditions – for example decreased water availability for hydropower during prolonged droughts and reduced availability of cooling water affecting the efficiency of power plants. Furthermore, energy infrastructure can be more exposed to damages by changing climate conditions. The European Commission in general aims to increase the climate resilience of infrastructure including energy by providing strategical frameworks like the staff working document on Adapting Infrastructure to Climate Change (2013) and “Framework Strategy for a Resilient Energy Union with a Forward-Looking Climate Change Policy” (2015). These documents guide the assessment of new and existing technical infrastructure, including energy infrastructure, in view of their resilience to current and future climate risks and the respective adaptation measures. Cohesion policy is financially supporting the development of climate-resilient infrastructure under the current programming period of the regional funds (2014-2020) (thematic objective 5).
The strategical directions and priorities of the European Commission for the energy sector are described in the documents on Priorities for the energy sector in Europe 2020 and beyond - A Blueprint for an integrated European energy network (2011) and the 2015 Framework Strategy for a Resilient Energy Union with a Forward-Looking Climate Change Policy. Although the documents aim for a resilient energy policy, they do not specify yet how the energy sector should adapt to climate change.
In the light of climate change, the Commission is supporting the revision of standards in infrastructure-related policies also with regard to the energy domain. On the request of the European Commission, European Standardization Organizations as CEN and CENELEC are fostering the integration of climate change adaptation in energy infrastructure standardization since 2014. Within the Environmental Assessment Directives (Directive 2001/42/EC and Directive 2014/52/EU), climate change is one of the aspects for infrastructure resilience since 2014 on. Environmental Assessment of individual plans, public infrastructure plans or programs ensures that all environmental implications of a project are considered before decisions on infrastructure are made. The Practical Guidance for Integrating Climate Change and Biodiversity into Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Procedures was published by the European Commission in 2013. Furthermore, considerations of climate change impacts were factored into the 2015 guidelines and methodologies of the Transeuropean Network Energy (TEN-E).
The European cohesion (or regional) policy, which provides funds to the Member States to develop new infrastructure projects, such as for instance power grids, encourages the assessment of climate resilience of these projects. Based on the information and guidance in the EU Adaptation Strategy and the Cohesion Policy documents, Europe intends to specifically invest in climate resilient infrastructure, in particular to set up renewable energy infrastructure (thematic objective 5).
Improving the knowledge base
Relevant information on the impacts of climate change on the energy sector at global level has been provided by the International Energy Agency (IEA).
The Joint Research Center (JRC) has carried modelling studies to assess the impact of climate change on the energy sector.
Within the EU Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technology Development (FP7) several research projects that cover the resilience of the energy sector were funded. These include the ToPDAd (Tool-supported Policy Development for Regional Adaptation) project, which provides among others information on impact and vulnerability assessments as well as adaptation strategies for the energy sector, and EUPORIAS, which provides knowledge on future variability of climate to achieve cost-effective solutions for the future operation of the energy grid.
Adaptation to climate change is also one focus of the Horizon 2020 EU funding programme for research and innovation e.g. the resilience of critical infrastructure like smart grids, while the European Program on Critical Infrastructure Protection also includes natural hazards, climate change is not yet part of that program. Methodologies have been developed in order to consider how to use policies on existing infrastructure in Europe in a way that supports the infrastructure resilience. The Horizon 2020 programme is funding two projects: RESIN and EU-CIRCLE project. The RESIN project will help cities to come up with robust adaptation strategies on their most critical infrastructure. The EU-Circle project will develop a Union-wide framework to support vital infrastructures to be prepared to natural hazards, including climate change.
Supporting investment and funding
EU funding for adaptation is supported by the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020, which ensures that climate adaptation including energy related adaptation actions have been integrated into all the major EU spending programmes. This framework includes different funding sources, as there are the regional funds. Further information can be found here.
- Energy infrastructure. Priorities for 2020 and beyond - a blueprint for an integrated European energy network
- Directive 2014/52/EU on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment
- The impact of climate change on the European energy system
- Climate modelling and renewable energy resource assessment
- Adapting infrastructure to climate change