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Droughts and heat waves affect not only hydropower, but also solar PV and wind power in the Mediterranean

Droughts and heat waves affect not only hydropower, but also solar PV and wind power in the Mediterranean
alarmPublication date: 28 August, 2023
Category: International News , Investigation

A pioneering study by LNEG quantified the impact of extreme weather events (droughts, floods, heat waves, cold waves and storms) on power production in the European Union (EU), United Kingdom and Norway (EU+) over the last 30 years (1990-2019).

No detailed scientific knowledge exists eyer on the impact of extreme weather events (EWE) on electricity generation at a national scale. EWE can seriously affect electricity supply, interrupting its generation, transmission and distribution, among other impacts. The study applied statistical methods over a database of 320 extreme weather events that caused significant human/economic damage in EU+ countries over the past 30 years retrieved from the EM-DAT database (The International Disaster Database). The information was combined with annual electricity output data for various technology groups (coal and gas power plants, wind, hydropower and solar PV) across the various EU+ countries over this period.

It was found that over the last 30 years EWE had a significant impact on the annual electricity output which was relevant enough to be felt at the level of the EU+ as a whole. The impact on some plants in specific locations and in short periods of time (e.g. a few weeks or months) was already known, but the effect for countries or regions on an annual scale had not been studied before.

It was found that at the EU+ scale, hydropower plants are the most impacted. In years with floods was found an average increase in their annual load factor of +7.0%. In years with storms, the increase was of +5.8%. On the contrary, in years of droughts/heat waves there was a reduction of -6.5%. Regarding solar PV, it was found that in years with cold waves there was a -4.5% reduction in the plants load factor in the EU+ as a whole.

The impacts are different across the EU+ territory. For example, it was only in the Mediterranean countries that the installed capacity of wind farms was found to be less used during years of drought/heat waves (-3.5% on average).

Finally, it was possible to conclude that the impact of EWE on electricity production has been increasing over the last 30 years. When analyzing the various years with droughts or heat waves between 1990-2019 we conclude that there is an increasing reduction of -3.0% for wind turbines in the Mediterranean. In other words, from one year of drought/heat wave to another year with this event, there is, on average, a reduction of -3.0% in the load factor. Also in the Mediterranean, this is also felt at the level of hydropower plants for years with droughts (-5.5%) and solar PV for years with heat waves (-3.7%).

The complete study: Brás, T.A., Simoes, S.G., Amorim, F., Fortes, P. (2023) How much extreme weather events have affected European power generation in the past three decades? Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews Journal (183) 113494. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2023.113494

Press Realease | Droughts and heat waves hamper not only hydropower generation but also solar photovoltaic and wind power generation in the Mediterranean