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Risks and opportunities for a Swiss hydropower company in achanging climate


Hakala, Kirsti; Addor, Nans; Gobbe, Thibault; Ruffieux, Johann; Seibert, Jan (2019). Risks and opportunities for a Swiss hydropower company in achanging climate. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences Discussions:Epub ahead of print.

Abstract

Anticipating and adapting to climate change impacts on water resources requires a detailed understanding of future hydroclimatic changes and of stakeholders' vulnerability to these changes. However, climate change impact studies are often conducted at a spatial scale that is too coarse to capture the specificity of individual catchments, and more importantly, the changes they focus on are not necessarily the changes most critical to stakeholders. While recent studies have combined hydrological and electricity market modeling, they tend to aggregate all climate impacts by focusing solely on reservoir profitability, and thereby provide limited insights into climate change adaptation. Here, we collaborated with Groupe E, a hydropower company operating several reservoirs in the Swiss pre-Alps and worked with them to produce hydroclimatic projections tailored to support their upcoming water concession negotiations. We started by identifying the vulnerabilities of their activities to climate change and then together chose streamflow and energy indices to characterize the associated risks. We provided Groupe E with figures showing the projected climate change impacts, which were refined over several meetings. The selected indices enabled us to simultaneously assess a variety of impacts induced by changes on i) the seasonal water volume distribution, ii) low flows, iii) high flows, and iv) energy demand. We were hence able to identify key opportunities (e.g., the future increase of reservoir inflow in winter, when electricity prices are historically high) and risks (e.g., the expected increase of consecutive days of low flows in summer and fall, which is likely to make it more difficult to meet residual flow requirements). This study highlights that the hydrological opportunities and risks associated with reservoir management in a changing climate depend on a range of factors beyond those covered by traditional impact studies. We also illustrate the importance of identifying stakeholder needs and using them to inform the production of climate impact projections. Our user-centered approach is transferable to other impact modeling studies, in the field of water resources and beyond.

Abstract

Anticipating and adapting to climate change impacts on water resources requires a detailed understanding of future hydroclimatic changes and of stakeholders' vulnerability to these changes. However, climate change impact studies are often conducted at a spatial scale that is too coarse to capture the specificity of individual catchments, and more importantly, the changes they focus on are not necessarily the changes most critical to stakeholders. While recent studies have combined hydrological and electricity market modeling, they tend to aggregate all climate impacts by focusing solely on reservoir profitability, and thereby provide limited insights into climate change adaptation. Here, we collaborated with Groupe E, a hydropower company operating several reservoirs in the Swiss pre-Alps and worked with them to produce hydroclimatic projections tailored to support their upcoming water concession negotiations. We started by identifying the vulnerabilities of their activities to climate change and then together chose streamflow and energy indices to characterize the associated risks. We provided Groupe E with figures showing the projected climate change impacts, which were refined over several meetings. The selected indices enabled us to simultaneously assess a variety of impacts induced by changes on i) the seasonal water volume distribution, ii) low flows, iii) high flows, and iv) energy demand. We were hence able to identify key opportunities (e.g., the future increase of reservoir inflow in winter, when electricity prices are historically high) and risks (e.g., the expected increase of consecutive days of low flows in summer and fall, which is likely to make it more difficult to meet residual flow requirements). This study highlights that the hydrological opportunities and risks associated with reservoir management in a changing climate depend on a range of factors beyond those covered by traditional impact studies. We also illustrate the importance of identifying stakeholder needs and using them to inform the production of climate impact projections. Our user-centered approach is transferable to other impact modeling studies, in the field of water resources and beyond.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Language:English
Date:2019
Deposited On:14 Feb 2020 10:08
Last Modified:14 Feb 2020 10:10
Publisher:Copernicus Publications
ISSN:1812-2116
OA Status:Green
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2019-475

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