Netherlands Netherlands Netherlands Netherlands


Energy The Netherlands

Vulnerabilities the Netherlands

The impacts of climate change on the energy and transport sector are expected to be of lesser importance than for example changes in consumer preferences, world oil prices and technological change (12).

Cooling water

It is highly likely that electricity companies will experience greater problems with their cooling water systems due to the rise in temperature and more frequent low discharges.  Surface water is used on a large-scale in the Netherlands as a coolant in the production of electricity. Two limitations apply to the discharge of cooling water (10):

  • the maximum discharge temperature must be below 30°C;
  • the temperature difference between intake and discharge may not be more than 7°C in the summer and 15ºC in the winter.

Consequently, a water temperature of 23°C applies as the critical limit for the use of cooling water. Research has revealed that the temperature of the river water is more of a determinant of cooling water restrictions than the discharge of the river (11).

Over the past century the average annual temperature of the water in the Rhine has increased from 11°C in 1910 to above 14°C in 2003. Two-thirds of this temperature rise is estimated to be due to the increased use of cooling water in Germany and one-third to the increase in temperature as a result of climate change (10).

Due to the temperature rise that has already occurred in recent decennia, the number of days in the year that the water temperature is above 23°C has also increased. During the very warm summers of 1994 and 2003, energy production temporarily decreased as a consequence of a shortage of cooling water; in 2003, a tight situation even arose (code ‘red’ in terms of the certainty of delivery) for a period of almost 40 days when the water temperature was above 24°C (10).

How the temperature in the Rhine and Meuse will continue to rise in the future is uncertain and depends on both the rise in the air temperature as well as developments in the utilization of cooling water upstream in Germany and Belgium (10).

Renewable energy

Changing climate conditions are expected to have a positive impact on several forms of renewable energy; e.g. increasing wind speeds enhance the wind energy potential by making more locations economically viable for producing wind energy; the anticipated increase in number of hours of sunshine could provide for some more solar energy; and changing growing seasons, and changes in temperature may generate favourable conditions for growing biomass crops (12).

Wind share of total electricity consumption in The Netherlands was 4.1% 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 (13).

Vulnerabilities Europe


The current key renewable energy sources in Europe are hydropower (19.8% of electricity generated) and wind. By the 2070s, hydropower potential for the whole of Europe is expected to decline by 6%, translated into a 20 to 50% decrease around the Mediterranean, a 15 to 30% increase in northern and eastern Europe and a stable hydropower pattern for western and central Europe (1,3,4). In areas with increased precipitation and runoff, dam safety may become a problem due to more frequent and intensive flooding events (5).

It has become apparent during recent heat waves and drought periods that electricity generation in thermal power plants may be affected by increases in water temperature and water scarcity. In the case of higher water temperatures the discharge of warm cooling water into the river may be restricted if limit values for temperature are exceeded. Electricity production has already had to be reduced in various locations in Europe during very warm summers (e.g. 2003, 2005 and 2006) (5,8).

Extreme heat waves can pose a serious threat to uninterrupted electricity supplies, mainly because cooling air may be too warm and cooling water may be both scarce and too warm (9).

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) (16).

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 (16).

By the 22nd century, land area devoted to biofuels may increase by a factor of two to three in all parts of Europe (2).


It may become more challenging to meet energy demands during peak times due to more frequent heat waves and drought conditions (1). Strong distributional patterns are expected across Europe — with rising cooling (electricity) demand in summer in southern Europe, compared with reduced heating (energy) demand in winter in northern Europe (7).

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 (15):

  • 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 (15).

Adaptation strategies

Adaptation options to sustain a stable supply of energy might include a policy-oriented method by relaxing the law on cooling water temperature levels. It is also possible to target at consumers energy demand for cooling and heating purposes by developing intelligent buildings and houses that provide for a constant year-round temperature by design and do not require additional heating. In addition, a large set of options for mitigation strategies exist, such as energy-saving products including, for example, energy-saving light bulbs, rechargable batteries, technical devices (e.g. refrigerators, t.v.’s etc.) or to increase consumer awareness to save energy through government campaigns (12).

Electricity production

Decreases in water withdrawal for electricity production are likely. Many older power stations rely on once-through cooling systems, and newer plants are expected to replace many of these over the next thirty years. The newer plants usually operate with tower cooling systems, which should result in substantial reductions, of 50% or more, in water withdrawal, despite an expected near doubling of thermal electricity production in Europe between 1990 and 2030 (14).


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

  1. Lehner et al. (2005), in: Alcamo et al. (2007)
  2. Metzger et al. (2004), in: Alcamo et al. (2007)
  3. Kirkinen et al. (2005), in: Anderson (ed.) (2007)
  4. Veijalainen and Vehviläinen (2006); Andréasson et al. (2006), in: Anderson (ed.) (2007)
  5. Anderson (ed.) (2007)
  6. Rothstein et al. (2006), in: Anderson (ed.) (2007)
  7. Alcamo et al., 2007
  8. EEA, JRC and WHO (2008)
  9. Behrens et al. (2010)
  10. Bresser (2006)
  11. KEMA (2004), in: Bresser (2006)
  12. Nillesen and Van Ierland (2006)
  13. European Wind Energy Association (2011)
  14. EEA (2005), in: European Commission (DG Environment) (2007)
  15. Golombek et al. (2012)
  16. Van Vliet et al. (2012)