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Researching for the future

30 Apr, 2014

Where will the next big flood in Norway be? What if the Himalayan glaciers melt? Is building hydropower plants in Turkey profitable? These are some of the questions R&D programme manager Uta Gjertsen is trying to answer.

“Climate change will impact all of Statkraft’s business areas, not just hydropower, but also wind and biomass,” says Uta Gjertsen, Head of the Consequences of Climate Change R&D programme launched last year.

It is in the interest of the energy sector to map how to meet the consequences of climate change. Just knowing that it will be “wetter and wilder” is not enough. We need accurate information on what to expect in the different regions in Norway, as well as the countries where Statkraft has interests or is considering making investments.

Knowledge transfer

“This research programme will collect and coordinate the climate research in the entire company, not just by gaining new knowledge, but also to gather and husband all the research leading up to the present. There is plenty of research out there, not least within Nordic hydropower, and the idea is that we need to apply this expertise in countries where we are going to invest,” says Gjersten.

The results from the programme will be relevant as a basis for investment decisions and energy optimisation, as well as operations and maintenance.

Change is coming

A recent study funded by the Nordic Council, in which Statkraft participated, concludes there is little doubt that hydropower in the Nordic and Baltic regions will be significantly impacted by climate change.

“Norway has had stable climate for a long time, enabling us to use a long-term time data series in our planning, but we now see that the past no longer provides us with a good indication of what will happen in the future,” Gjertsen says.


Demanding future

Statkraft’s goal is to grow internationally, but in the parts of the world without the same accurate measurements or meteorological and hydrological data as we have, it is even more difficult to predict the future.

“For instance, new global climate forecasts indicate drier climate in the Mediterranean region, and that plays into our assessment of the profitability of developing hydropower in areas that might have to use water for other means. It is even more difficult to predict the impact on wind power,” says Gjertsen.

Affects profitability

Knowledge of climate change is important for making well-informed decisions about profitability.

“Due to climate change, reservoirs may be the way to go, rather than investing in run-of-river plants. Climate change will also impact maintenance and renovation of existing plants. Many were developed at a time when global warming was not an issue, and it is important to find out what has to be done to protect them from future climate developments.”

Statkraft and SN Power participate in research projects in India, headed by the Bergen-based Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research. The challenges in this area are enormous, with many and severe floods, changing monsoon patterns, and melting Himalayan glaciers.