In Australia, heatwaves are the deadliest natural hazard and a major driver of peak electricity demand. The disproportionately high peak demand increases electricity prices, causes occasional blackouts and exacerbates energy poverty, all of which limit one’s ability to use air conditioning. Meanwhile, increased energy efficiency of dwellings may decrease their heat stress resistance.
Heatwaves have been subject to significant attention in Australia and globally due to their negative impacts on the ecosystem, infrastructure, human health and social life. Measures to increase resilience to heatwaves, however, are mostly isolated in different disciplines.
The frequency and intensity of urban heatwaves (UHWs) have been growing worldwide due to climate change and the exacerbating effects of urban heat islands (UHIEs). UHWs have many negative impacts, including excess negative health outcomes (e.g. morbidity), energy (consumption and peak demand) and water consumption.
Heatwaves are Australia’s most deadly natural hazard and the principle driver of peak electricity demand in South Australia. The disproportionately high peak demand increases electricity prices, causes occasional blackouts and exacerbates energy poverty, all of which limit the use of air-conditioning.
The report was undertaken as part of a PhD research, funded by the CRC for Low Carbon Living Ltd. supported by the Cooperative Research Centres program, an Australian Government initiative and a research student scholarship granted from the Australian Building Codes Board.
Climate change is leading to an increased frequency and severity of heat waves. Spells of several consecutive days of unusually high temperatures have led to increased mortality rates for the more vulnerable in the community. The problem is compounded by the escalating energy costs and increasing peak electrical demand as people become more reliant on air conditioning.
Although heatwave-related excess mortality and morbidity have been widely studied, results are not comparable spatially and often longitudinally because of different heatwave definitions applied. The excess heat factor (EHF) quantifies heatwave intensity relative to the local climate, enabling cross-regional comparisons.
Heatwaves have a mounted interest in the last decade due to their negative impacts on infrastructure, the ecosystem and public health. Population exposure to heat stress is substantially influenced by the resilience of the built environment as people spend the majority of their time indoors.