The UK’s Met Office and an alliance of energy companies have announced a new in-depth study into climate change and its potential impacts on the energy industry.

The report on a recently completed three-month scoping study gives some initial indications on how climate change could impact the industry over the next century and has allowed the alliance to draw up a priority list of areas requiring further detailed assessment. The scoping study assessed qualitatively the scale of climate change impacts to 2050 on generation, distribution and transmission, supply and demand in the UK and concludes that the energy industry is highly sensitive to changes in climate and that most of the industry’s activities could be affected, including oil and gas extraction; power generation; electricity and gas distribution; electricity transmission; and energy supply and demand.

The study uses climate predictions, created by the super computers at the Met Office’s Hadley Centre, to understand how climate change will affect future energy use and demand and what further information the industry may need to adapt to those changes.

With the UK power network built for cold winters and mild summers, the report highlights problems from climate change that will affect power companies beyond the need to cap emissions and adapt new sources of energy. Examples include increased temperatures raising transmission losses due to sagging cables and lower efficiencies at thermal generation plants.

Factors taken into account also include how climate change could affect energy demand through population growth and movement, greater use of air conditioning and such like. In addition, this first nationwide study being conducted in conjunction with National Grid and generation players EON UK and EDF Energy, is attempting to assess potential threats to transmission, distribution and generation assets from potential sea level rises and extreme weather events in a bid to develop a long-term investment strategy. The research will also attempt to identify any positive effects from climate change such as lower winter demand levels.

Phase 2 of the study aims to deliver quantifiable analysis, including probability, that companies can use to make informed investment decisions, and support levels of capital expenditure. The full report is expected towards the middle of next year.