Climate change impacts on hydropower in the Vispa valley

Hydropower facilities in the Vispa valley, Switzerland
Hydropower facilities in the Vispa valley, Switzerland

Projections of future water resources and their uncertainty in a glacierized catchment in the Swiss Alps and the subsequent effects on hydropower production during the 21st century


Hydropower accounts for about 20% of the worldwide electrical power production. In mountainous regions this ratio is significantly higher. In this study we present how future projected climatic forcing, as described in regional climate models (RCMs), will affect water resources and subsequently hydropower production in downstream hydropower plants in a glacierized alpine valley (Vispa valley, Switzerland, 778 km2). In order to estimate future runoff generation and hydropower production, we used error-corrected and downscaled climate scenarios from regional climate models (RCMs) as well as glacier retreat projections from a dynamic glacier model and coupled them to a physically based hydrological model. Furthermore, we implemented all relevant hydropower operational rules in the hydrological model to estimate future hydropower production based on the runoff projections. The uncertainty of each modeling component (climate projections, glacier retreat, and hydrological projection) and the resulting propagation of uncertainty to the projected future water availability for energy production were assessed using an analysis of variance. While the uncertainty of the projections is considerable, the consistent trends observed in all projections indicate significant changes to the current situation. The model results indicate that future melt- and rainfall-runoff will increase during spring but decline during summer. The study concludes by outlining the most relevant expected changes for hydropower operations.


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18 February 2012

The study was published in Water Resources Research:

June 2012

German summary: In Wasser Energie Luft ist eine deutsche Zusammenfassung publiziert worden (siehe Link unten):

Weitreichende Auswirkungen des Klimawandels auf die Wasserkraftproduktion in einem Schweizer Alpental
Artikel in Wasser Energie Luft
Finger 2012 Weitreichende Auswirkungen d
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