Drought not only threatens the water supply. It is also putting hydroelectric power on the ropes

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The shadow of drought is long. Its consequences reach households, the industrythe Agriculture, transporthas drifts on nature or even archeology and, of course, it is felt in the energy sector. Less water translates into emptier rivers and swamps. And some reservoirs and rivers with fewer reserves affect, in turn, the hydraulic generation capacity.

It happens in Spain. And it happens in other countries.

A scenario that has not been lived in decades. The lack of rain has led to a scenario of drought that Spain has not experienced for decades. Days ago, the Ecological Transition data located the country’s reservoirs to only 37.9%, which translates into about 4,000 cubic hectometers less than just a year ago and 10,600 below the average for the decade. You have to go back almost three decades, no less than 1995, to find an August closing with a lower volume.

Consequences on the energy sector. With less water in the reservoir, the margin for taking advantage of the waterfalls is also reduced. Between January and the first half of August —precise The country— power output from power plants was at its lowest since the early 1990s, standing at about half the average. In fact, if we look back just a year ago, hydroelectric plants had generated almost twice as much during the same period.


And for sample, a button. in Catalonia the news jumped this week of the stoppage of a hydroelectric plant in a reservoir in Lleida precisely because of the drought. Days ago secret pointed since, until July 31, the production of hydraulic energy had been reduced by 17.9% in the Lleida regions. If the balance was compared with the historical average of the last decade, the collapse is more pronounced: 35.5%. The data is similar to that of Catalonia as a whole.

A scenario with repercussions. The collapse in the contribution of hydraulics, which Red Eléctrica locates by nearly 50% year-on-year, added to other smaller drops, such as solar thermal or wind power, it has a strong effect on the global balance of renewables. Not even the rise of solar photovoltaics —write down The country— compensates for the general picture of generation drop.

latest data of Red Eléctrica show that the contribution of renewables stands at 43.8% compared to 56.2% associated with non-renewable sources. The “puncture” in the hydroelectric contribution is equivalent to an increase in generation with natural gas, which has a higher economic and environmental cost.

beyond balance sheets. The impact on prices could be felt especially in the fall. The scenario is further complicated by the backdrop of the energy crisis facing Europe and has already forced the authorities to adopt saving measures —regulate the use of air conditioning or lighting— to reduce, in the case of Spain, about 7% gas consumption.

A scenario that goes far beyond Spain. Spain is not the only country that sees how the lack of rain affects its energy system. China is also facing a historic drought that has already reduced some rivers, including certain sections of the Yangtze. Beyond its impact on the environment, population and companies, the lack of water has already affected hydroelectric power. The problem is serious in Sichuan, which obtains just over 80% of its energy from this route, and it also affects the city of Chongqing or the province of Hubei, coinciding with an increase in demand.

To deal with the situation, points out Guardian, the authorities have limited the power supply to thousands of factories and rationed public use. Among the companies that have been forced to temporarily suspend their activity in certain plants in recent weeks are Tesla or Toyota. In the US too come with concern the drop in the levels of Lakes Mead and Powell, which in addition to providing water are relevant to the electrical system.

And beyond the hydroelectric. The hydroelectric plant is not the only one that has suffered the blow of the drought. In France, for example, several nuclear reactors have had to reduce their production due to the high temperature of the water that comes from the river, key to cooling them. Another country that has also been affected in an unexpected way is Germany: by lowering the level of the Rhine has encountered a problem to displace coal with which it wants to limit its dependence on Russian gas.

Cover image | Emilio Morenatti/AP

The shadow of drought is long. Its consequences reach households, the industrythe Agriculture, transporthas drifts on nature or even archeology…

The shadow of drought is long. Its consequences reach households, the industrythe Agriculture, transporthas drifts on nature or even archeology…

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