Investment needs for future adaptation measures in EU power production sector due to effects of climate change

April 5, 2011 | 00:00

Investment needs for future adaptation measures in EU power production sector due to effects of climate change

This Final Report of the study: “Investment needs for future adaptation measures of in EU nuclear power plants and other electricity generation technologies due to the effects of climate change” is based on previous comments received from the Commission on the Draft Final Report, on feedback from the stakeholder consultation the Consortium conducted among a representative distribution of power plants throughout the EU and on the Ecorys Risk Assessment Model for analyzing the potential climate change risk thresholds for EU power plants and necessary accompanying investments.

The emphasis of this report is to present key preconditions for EU power plants (depending on technology) to operate successfully, to present the selected climate change and electricity scenarios for this study, to present the results of the consultation with EU power plant operators and to present a coherent risk assessment framework for analyzing the investments needed for power plants to adapt to future climate change effects. Furthermore, the synthesis will frame the results of the study and put them in perspective.

This Final Report was written by Ecorys, ECN and NRG. Several people within each of these organisations contributed to this report. This report was commissioned and financed by the Commission of the European Communities. The views expressed herein are those of the Consultant, and do not represent an official view of the Commission.

Policy Summary

Climate change is expected to have an impact on the electricity sector, leading to a need to invest in adaptation measures for electricity facilities in the near future. This study aims at specifying and quantifying these needs.

Thermal generation technologies, falling from a share in the generation mix of 85% in 2010 to 73% in 2050, can largely be considered as one homogeneous group as far as the impacts of climate change are concerned. The thermal technologies need to be protected from flooding and have a need for cooling and NPPs already have severe safety requirements in place. Renewable technologies are very heterogeneous and variable in their sensitivity towards climate change. Grids are quite susceptible to weather conditions and will be in need of precautionary measures to adapt to climate change.

To study the possible impacts of climate change at a regional level, three climate change scenarios (for different climatic zones) are chosen, which vary in their focus concerning three key climate change indicators, namely wind, temperature, and precipitation. Moreover, eight climate change indicators have been identified, namely water and air temperature, precipitation, average wind speed, sea level and extreme events like floods, heat waves and storms. In this way, the power sector can prepare for those climate changes that might impact on their day to day operations. In addition, Europe is divided into four climatic zones in order to show the regional differences in climate change impacts across Europe, without getting lost in too much detail.

For four defined climatic European zones, the baseline energy scenario of Eurelectric is employed in order to determine the size and generation mix of the power sector in the EU-27. From the Eurelectric scenarios, the baseline scenario has been chosen, as this scenario best follows the IPCC A1B scenario assumptions and is, for the time being, the only available energy scenario for Europe with a longer time horizon than 2030, and is also being used for EU policy making.

Utilities and power plant operators of all generation technologies across Europe have been interviewed using a questionnaire. A representative population of stakeholders of the different electricity generation technologies (across the EU-27 Member States) has been identified and were asked whether the impacts of climate change have been assessed and incorporated in their long term strategies, how the different effects influence daily operations and which costs, risks and investments are perceived due to climate change. One of the key results of the stakeholder consultation was that respondents and interviewees often found it hard to indicate precise values for the costs of climate change. To have a better indication of such costs, estimates have been made which were verified with a representative share of the stakeholders interviewed. The climate change and energy scenarios and the adaptation cost estimates have been joined together in the Ecorys Risk Assessment Model.

In this study, investment needs are identified in four of the eight considered climate change indicators and these are considered as severe climate change impacts:

�� A decrease in precipitation will require preventive investments for hydro power plants in the
Mediterranean region;

Investment needs for future adaptation measures in EU power plants due to effects of climate change:
�� An increase in the sea level will require preventive investments for offshore wind power plants in
all European Seas;
�� An increase in the occurrence of floods will require preventive investments for thermal generation technologies all over Europe, except for the North Sea region;
�� An increase in the occurrence of storms will require preventive investments for networks all over Europe, except for the North Sea region.

Two other climate change impacts are categorized as medium, meaning that these climate change impacts are not yet expected to require investments for the scenarios consulted, but would require investments in the event that climate change impacts prove to be more severe than expected:

�� An increase in water temperature would decrease the output of all thermal generation technologies;
�� The changes in the level of precipitation is mixed, with increases in the North, largely unaffected in the North Sea and Central European Regions, while there is a projected decrease in the south (already mentioned under severe impacts).

Finally, a number of climate change impacts will only have a minor impact on power plant operation
leading to a relatively small drop in generation output:
�� An increase in air temperature would decrease the output of all thermal generation
�� A decrease in average wind speeds (in the North Sea and Mediterranean regions) would decrease the output of onshore and offshore wind parks;
�� An increased frequency of flooding events could pose a threat to concentrated solar power, geothermal and grids;
�� An increased frequency of heat waves would decrease the output of all thermal generation technologies, but also of solar PV and would additionally increase the resistance of electricity transmission through grids with consequent increased transmission losses;
�� An increased frequency of storm events would decrease the output of some renewable generation technologies, namely hydro, onshore and offshore wind, solar PV and concentrated solar power.

Planning for new generation technologies in Member States should prepare the power plant operator for the possible impacts of climate change and avoid unexpected disruption of generation, where, in addition to the climate change impacts mentioned above, the expected lifetime of a power plant is an important aspect to consider. For renewable energy plant operators the unit adaptation costs (= climate adaptation costs per installation in Euro) are about three times higher than for nuclear energy and over two time higher than for fossil fuel fired power plants.

For the full report click here.


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