Waterways warmed by climate change will increase electricity prices by as much as a third in southern Europe as producers struggle to cool power stations, a study showed.
Countries from Romania to Bulgaria and Slovenia face the biggest price increases, according to research today from the Laxenburg, Austria-based Institute for International Applied Systems Analysis. Dutch, German and Spanish scientists participated in the study.
“The combination of increased water temperatures and reduced summer river flow under climate change is likely to affect both hydropower and thermoelectric power generating capacity in Europe,” wrote the authors, led by Michelle van Vliet, whose research focuses on how warming climate will affect world river flows.
Freshwater is becoming more scarce as the globe copes with climate change that shrinks glaciers, aquifers get depleted and some regions become dryer as the world population rises to 9 billion by 2050. In addition to providing hydropower, water is an essential cooling function inside nuclear and coal-fired plants. The European report follows calls on U.S. energy providers to boost climate-change adaptation.
“All kinds of energy infrastructure and all kinds of critical infrastructure has to be planned with an understanding that we are likely to have to adapt to some of the effects of climate change,” Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said last week in Vienna. Plants may have to swap cooling technologies “that’s more expensive and makes the plant less efficient,” he said.
Europe’s hydropower potential is expected to decrease as much as 5 percent from 2031 to 2060, according to the report. Nuclear, coal and gas-fired plants in southern Europe will be most adversely affected by rising temperatures and low river levels, the study said.
“Considering the high investment costs, retrofitting or replacement of power plants might not be beneficial from the perspective of individual power-plant operators,” the study’s authors wrote, adding that introducing more renewable energy sources may help populations to cope with climate change.