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Energy in numbers - Spain

In the mid 1990s hydropower plants accounted for some 19% (or approx. 2500 TWh/a) of total electricity production worldwide. World production of hydroelectricity has grown steadily by about 2.3% per year on average since 1980 (European Commission, 2000; increase in total electricity production 3.1% per year). Worldwide average growth rate of hydroelectricity generation between 1990 and 2020 of 3.6% per year is estimated (1).

With some 2240 TWh/a, the developed global hydropower potential in 1990 accounted for about 21% of the world’s estimated exploitable hydropower potential (exploitable = developed at costs competitive with other energy sources and takes into account environmental or other special restrictions (2).

In 2006 the contribution of solar and wind energy to total energy production in Spain was 0.1% and 7.5%, respectively (5). Wind share of total electricity consumption in Spain was 14.4% by the end of 2010. Overall in the EU, in a normal wind year, installed wind capacity at the end of 2010 meets 5.3% of the EU’s electricity needs (11).

Vulnerabilities - Spain


There are indications that since the 1970s annual energy production of some existing hydropower stations in Europe has decreased, in particular in Portugal, Spain and other Southern European countries (UCTE, 1999). This reduction has been attributed to changes in average discharge. Whether this is due to temporary fluctuations or already the consequences of long-term changing climate conditions is not yet known (2).

Research has shown that the large inter-annual variability in the flows of the three main international Iberian river basins, namely the Douro (north), the Tejo (centre) and the Guadiana (south), is largely modulated by the North Atlantic oscillation (NAO) phenomenon. … The important control exerted by the NAO and the recent positive trend in the NAO index contribute to a significant decrease in the available flow. This reduction represents an important hazard for the two Iberian economies because of its negative impact on water-dependent resources, such as intensive agriculture and hydroelectric power production (4).

For the 2070s, in strong correlation to changes in discharge, mainly driven by future precipitation patterns, the potential of existing hydropower plants to produce electricity increases in Northern Europe, but decreases in the South. Scandinavia and Northern Russia show an increase in hydropower potential of 15-30% and above. The regions most prone to a decrease in developed hydropower potential are Portugal and Spain in Western Europe, as well as Ukraine, Bulgaria and Turkey in the East, with decreases of 20-50% and more. Germany and Great Britain maintain a rather stable developed hydropower potential compared to other European countries (2). Hydroelectric power generation in the Catalan Pyrenees has already decreased by 40 % in the 2003-2007 period, compared with average generation, and a further decrease in hydraulic power potential of 20-50 % is projected by 2070 (14). 

For the whole of Europe, the gross hydropower potential is estimated to decline by about 4% to approx. 2400 TWh/a in the 2070s (2).

In terms of energy, Spain probably will benefit from climate change only for the production of solar energy (3,5). The potential for wind energy under climate change will probably not increase (5).

Climate change will impact thermoelectric power production in Europe through a combination of increased water temperatures and reduced river flow, especially during summer. In particular, thermoelectric power plants in southern and south-eastern Europe will be affected by climate change. Using a physically based hydrological and water temperature modelling framework in combination with an electricity production model, a summer average decrease in capacity of power plants of 6.3–19% in Europe was shown for 2031–2060 compared with 1971-2000, depending on cooling system type and climate scenario (SRES B1 and A2) (13).

Overall, a decrease in low flows (10th percentile of daily distribution) for Europe (except Scandinavia) is projected with an average decrease of 13-15% for 2031–2060 and 16-23% for 2071-2100,compared with 1971-2000. Increases in mean summer (21 June - 20 September) water temperatures are projected of 0.8-1.0°C for 2031–2060 and 1.4-2.3°C for 2071-2100, compared with 1971-2000. Projected water temperature increases are highest in the south-western and south-eastern parts of Europe (13).


Energy consumption may increase. An up to 10% decrease in energy heating requirements and an up to 28% increase in cooling requirements is estimated for 2030 for the south-east Mediterranean region (6). Summer cooling needs will particularly affect electricity demand with up to 50% increases in Italy and Spain by the 2080s (7). For Madrid by the 2070sa  strong increase in electricity demand for cooling of 114% has been reported (8). Fortunately, the lengthening and flattening of the tourism season in the Mediterranean will spread demand evenly and thus alleviate the pressure on summer water supply and energy demand (9).

In Spain peaks in electricity demand during summer heat waves are very likely to equal or exceed peaks in demand during cold winter periods (10). 

Climate change impacts on electricity markets in Western Europe

The expected climate changes in the 21st century are likely to have a small impact on electricity prices and production for the energy markets of Western Europe. This has been estimated by modelling three climatic effects (12):

  • changes in demand for electricity due to changes in the need for heating and cooling,
  • changes in supply of hydropower due to changes in precipitation and temperature, and
  • changes in thermal power supply due to warmer cooling water and therefore lower plant efficiency.

According to the model results each of these three partial effects changes the average electricity producer price by less than 2%, while the net effect is an increase in the average producer price of only 1%. Similarly, the partial effects on total electricity production are small, and the net effect is a decrease of 4%.

The greatest effects of climate change are found for those Nordic countries with a large market share for reservoir hydro. In these countries total annual production increases by 8%, reflecting an expected increase in inflow of water. A substantial part of the increase in Nordic production is exported; climate change doubles net exports of electricity from the Nordic countries, while the optimal reservoir capacity is radically reduced (12).

Adaptation strategies

Considering the projected decreases in cooling-water availability during summer in combination with the long design life of power plant infrastructure, adaptation options should be included in today's planning and strategies to meet the growing electricity demand in the 21st century (13).


The references below are cited in full in a separate map 'References'. Please click here if you are looking for the full references for Spain.

  1. Eurelectric (1997a), in: Lehner et al. (2001)
  2. Lehner et al. (2001)
  3. Government of Spain. Quinta Comunicación Nacional de España
  4. Trigo et al. (2004)
  5. Comisión de Coordinación de Políticas de Cambio Climático (2007)
  6. Cartalis et al. (2001), in: WHO (2007)
  7. Livermore (2005), in: WHO (2007)
  8. Fronzek and Carter (2007), in: Alcamo et al. (2007)
  9. Amelung and Viner (2006), in: Alcamo et al. (2007)
  10. López Zafra et al. (2005), in: Alcamo et al. (2007)
  11. European Wind Energy Association (2011)
  12. Golombek et al. (2012)
  13. Van Vliet et al. (2012)
  14. CTP and OPCC (2012), in: European Environment Agency (2017)

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