Hydropower // Addressing Climate Vulnerability for Power System Resilience and Energy Security - A Focus on Hydropower Resources
By Molly Hellmuth, Pamela Cookson and Joanne Potter, ICF/USAid. Hydropower is always at the heart of the Nexus. This paper aims to inform energy planners and investors about i) how climate change can affect power generation resources, particularly hydropower resources; and ii) an approach that can be taken to address climate change risks, both at the project and sector level, to improve power system resilience and enhance energy security.
Hydropower faces challenges associated with climate change. In particular, changing precipitation patterns, increases in temperature, more frequent or intense incidence of droughts, extreme weather events, sea level rise, and resulting flooding and landslides can all affect hydroelectricity generation capacity, damage infrastructure, disrupt service, and lead to difficulties in meeting environmental regulations, among other things. Moreover, for a myriad of reasons, most investors, managers, and operators of hydropower facilities do not yet consider projected changes in climate and weather as part of a business risk analysis or in power planning.3 Unless these risks are addressed, the intended benefits of hydropower may be short-lived; particularly if electricity grids must turn to traditional, carbon-intensive energy sources such as coal-fired plants when hydropower becomes constrained.
To help address this challenge, this paper outlines a four-step approach for integrating climate resil-ience approaches into power planning by iteratively identifying and managing climate risks to better ensure long-term energy security and sustainability. These steps involve: (1) assessment of climate risks and vulnerabilities; (2) identification, evaluation, and prioritization of options to address climate risks; (3) integration of climate change considerations into project implementation, power planning, and operations and maintenance; and (4) monitoring, evaluating, and adjusting plans over time. The paper provides key resources to help planners and investors undertake these steps. The paper also emphasizes that detailed local assessments, as well as explicit consideration of tradeoffs associated with different investment alternatives, are critical to providing greater understanding of climate vulnerabilities and identifying feasible planning and management measures.
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