Climate change extremes impact hydro power
Rainfall pattern changes, a long-predicted impact of climate change, are being globally observed. Dry regions are becoming drier as wet regions become wetter. At both extremes, hydro schemes designed around a predicted annual rainfall now experience greater financial and operational risk.
When rain accumulation can no longer be predicted, even within a significant range, serious problems can occur. In wetter regions, multi-billion-dollar dams must be re-engineered and reinforced. One such region, Norway, was a 5% increase in rainfall in recent years. This doubled the structural reinforcement expenditures of a leading hydroelectric energy producer.
At the same time, vast regions experienced substantially lower annual rainfall. An East African dam project may no longer be feasible because reduced generating capability would mean that less electricity could be sold to neighboring countries. Estimates for energy output of 147 Amazon Basic hydroelectric projects have been lowered. Some projects are no longer viewed as reliable solutions to the region’s power needs.