Climate adaptation of electricity sector could cost Europe €15-19 billion per year

editor, 22 June 2011

A recent study by Ecorys, in consortium with Energy research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN) and Nuclear Research and consultancy Group (NRG),for the European Commission shows that in order to ‘climate proof’ the European electricity sector, investments between €15 and €19 billion per year could be required. These investments are needed to safeguard electricity generation facilities and infrastructure against the harmful effects of climate change like rising temperatures and water levels.

The IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report indicates that climate change could seriously affect all aspects of today’s society, including the electricity sector. The impacts of climate change can cause electricity generation facilities and infrastructure to fail, unless operators invest in preventative measures. Ecorys, ECN and NRG have has mapped the size of the impacts of climate change for different electricity generation technologies (conventional electricity generation from fossil fuels, renewable electricity generation and nuclear energy) and electricity grids in Europe including the investments needed to ‘climate proof’ the current and future electricity generation capacity and electricity grids. The study shows that the annual investments costs are between €15-19 billion per year until 2080 under the constraint of limiting global temperature increase to 2ºC by 2100. The additional costs as a consequence of climate change will amount to €1.5 to €2.6 billion for nuclear power plants, €3.0 to €4,3 billion for fossil fuel based power generation, €4.9 to €5.5 billion for renewable electricity generation, and €4.0 to €4.9 billion for electricity grids.

Recent events in Japan have fuelled the debate on the safety of nuclear energy

In March 2011 the largest earthquake in the recorded history of Japan has taken place. Besides the human disaster the earthquake devastated the civil infrastructure and vital installations of the energy sector. The result is a forced shutdown of 9.7 GW nuclear capacity (=5.7% of national generation), the forced shutdown of 9.5 GW conventional generated electricity capacity and significant damage to the grid infrastructure. The developments in Japan fed the debate about the future of nuclear energy within Europe which is closely followed by the European Commission and national government officials. Hence, the impact of extreme weather events on the safety and normal functioning of nuclear energy generation is high on the political agenda and forms a key constituent of the forthcoming comprehensive safety and risk assessments of all EU nuclear power plants, coordinated by the European Commission. Climate change is expected to have an enormous impact on the energy sector. Considerable investments in dykes, infrastructure and protection measures will be necessary to adapt to future impacts of climate change and to ‘climate proof’ the European electricity sector. This study has shown that the need to adapt electricity generation and transmission infrastructures to the effects of climate change is not limited at all to the nuclear sector.

New methodology

Within this study the consortium has developed a new methodology for measuring the required investments for different future situations based on climate change scenario’s and sector growth projections, in which climate change effects can be linked to investments/cost impacts on a sector level. Based on climate change indicators, some scenarios have been developed for different climatic zones within Europe.

The complete report can be found at


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