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Will heatwaves become regular events as a result of climate change?

By Mara Aug 03, 2022

Over the past few years, the impacts of climate change have become more pronounced, making heatwaves more frequent and intense in many places around the world, including the UK.

This summer, much of the UK sweltered in an extreme heatwave, with a new record temperature for the country of 40.3C set at Coningsby, Lincolnshire. The heatwave caused widespread disruption to transport networks across the country and brought about hundreds of fires that destroyed homes and pushed London to the brink of blackouts.

Following these extreme temperatures, the UK’s climate and weather monitors warned that such heatwaves could become regular events by 2100 if the world continues to warm, making the record temperatures experienced in July much more likely in future.

Scientists believe that extreme heat — which also causes biodiversity loss — is a direct consequence of climate change, and the risks will grow more serious the longer action is delayed. According to Met Office Chief Scientist Professor Stephen Belcher: ‘In a climate unaffected by human influence, climate modelling shows that it is virtually impossible for temperatures in the UK to reach 40°C.’

What can be done to mitigate these climate change risks?

As global warming is taking its toll, steps to mitigate the impacts of heatwaves will be needed. Planting more trees, adjusting our active hours and changing how we design buildings can contribute to adapting to these extreme events and building a more heat-resilient environment in the UK.

Aside from these steps to mitigate the impacts of heatwaves, more decisive actions are also needed: to curb climate change and reduce the frequency of these events, we must undergo the fastest energy transition in history to cut our dependence on fossil fuels. To make this a reality and achieve its net zero goals by 2050, the UK needs to build a strong energy system powered solely by renewables, such as wind and solar.

However, among the challenges of adding more clean energy to the grid is the unpredictable nature of renewable energy sources and the fact that they might also not always be located near where they are needed most. As we rely on transmission lines to move power from where it’s generated to other locations, scaling renewables to the levels required to cut our reliance on fossil fuels could result in substantial amounts of grid congestion.

The role of energy flexibility

To overcome these problems, finding ways to enhance flexibility on the grid is essential to decarbonise our electricity supply while keeping the grid stable and preventing transmission lines from becoming congested.

In this context, distributed energy resources (DERs), such as smart batteries and electric vehicles (EVs), can play a vital role in supporting the creation of a clean and flexible grid, turning into a critical flexibility source.

By using smart technology solutions such as Moixa’s GridShare software, we can effectively tackle these challenges and solve grid stability issues. DERs can be aggregated into virtual power plants (VPPs) to deliver grid services and address fluctuations in energy demand. This will enable the grid to rely on those devices to store surplus clean energy and use it when needed rather than waste it while avoiding grid congestion.

What impact do individual behaviours have in fighting climate change?

Along with using technology to help decarbonise our society, one of the most critical factors in climate change is us as individuals. Grid services with residential participation are already a reality in the UK, where PV and battery ​​installation growth rates are soaring. However, as energy costs rise, people are less likely to support a costly transition to net zero.

The government must take a practical and pragmatic approach to ensure households create a daily change that will allow them to become active members of the energy landscape — rather than passive consumers — and create local energy security.

Climate change and its consequences are an existential threat that demands we come together to deliver action and change, and people will be at the heart of the future energy system.