Changes in Production Capacity
In addition to rising average temperatures, climate change is synonymous with changes in precipitation patterns and thus hydrological regimes. Given that hydro production is dependent on river flows, these changes have the potential to affect production capacity. Increased precipitation in winter and spring, especially when combined with winter freeze-thaw cycles, can lead to earlier spring flooding. Although these changes may represent an opportunity for some plants, benefits can depend on a multitude of factors. For example, if reservoirs are already full, the arrival of large volumes of water will not be particularly useful.
On the other hand, more severe droughts are anticipated in summer and fall, which will also have negative impacts on hydro production, especially for run-of-the-river facilities. These types of power stations have no reservoir and are entirely dependent on the natural discharge of the river. Lower flow would therefore lead to a drop in production capacity.
Other Energy Sources
Although hydro is dominant in Quebec, wind power, with its absence or near absence of GHG emissions, is also a promising source of electricity. As this technology is dependent on the wind resource, production capacity could increase if the resource becomes stronger, or diminish if the reverse is true. However, the impact that climate change might have on the wind resource remains uncertain.
Impacts of climate change on wind energy potential WEC 2100
This project will help Canadian electricity providers such as Hydro-Québec, Manitoba Hydro and Ontario Power Generation to improve the long-term planning and reliability of wind power generation.
Impact on Energy Transmission and Distribution
Since many hydroelectric dams and wind farms are sited far from the province’s major urban centres where the majority of consumers reside, the energy produced must be carried over significant distances, notably from northern Quebec to southern parts of the province. The energy transmission and distribution system covers the entire province and is thus exposed to a variety of climate change impacts. Extreme events such as forest fires, floods, extreme precipitation episodes, violent winds, freezing rain, and even the thawing of permafrost can damage energy transmission infrastructure or affect the efficiency of certain components (e.g. transformers) and interrupt power supply. Climate change may trigger an upward trend in these types of events.
Freezing rain, for example, could become more frequent in Quebec’s more northerly regions. This could add substantial loads to transmission lines and towers, potentially causing them to sag or collapse. Power lines and towers may also be knocked down in the event of a storm with violent winds, leaving consumers without electricity.
Furthermore, extreme heat lowers the transmission capacity of power lines, which affects the amount of energy available during periods of high demand. Heat waves may also cause the lines to expand and consequently sag below the minimum permitted height and even give rise to sparking or fire.
Increased vegetation growth below the power lines due to higher temperatures also has an effect on the transmission and distribution network. In fact, whether it’s trees in an urban environment or vegetation growing under high-voltage power lines, maintenance must be performed more frequently to prevent the plants from coming into contact with the distribution infrastructure.
Fire Exposure and Adaptation in the Canadian Taiga
The approache developed will help guide strategy decisions made by industry partners (Hydro-Québec, Manitoba Hydro) and communities in sub-Arctic regions regarding wildfire risk management.
Variable Energy Demand
Future energy demand is likely to vary on account of rising temperatures. Consequently, demand will be higher in summer, especially during heat waves due to spikes in the use of air conditioners. Peak summer periods could therefore coincide with periods of lower transmission capacity caused by extreme heat and low water levels in dam reservoirs. Conversely, demand could also decline in winter as milder weather reduces heating needs.
It should also be borne in mind that demand is generally expected to rise overall due to the increasing electrification of society, notably for transportation and energy-intensive industries such as data centres.
A failure in the energy system can have a ripple effect and ultimately impact any number of other systems such as the healthcare network, water supply, telecommunications, etc. Energy is one of the ten sectors identified as critical infrastructure in the National Strategy for Critical Infrastructure, since it is relied on by both the general public and the economy at large.