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As Spanish hydropower comes close to an all-time low, will we see a recovery during Q2?

Eylert Ellefsen
Archived blog post. This blog post has been transferred from our previous blogging platform. Links and images may not work as intended.

Across the Iberian Peninsula, hydropower production levels have been extremely low since the New Year. With precipitation levels reaching 40-year lows, hydro production has dived well below normal levels, whilst the hydrological balance has reached a deficit of nearly -10 TWh for Spain. This accounts for around 30% of an average yearly production level.

Spain will see extremely low levels of hydropower production until the end of Q2 2022. Estimated production for the first half of 2022 is about 10 TWh (56 % of what we would normally expect). By comparison, the 2017 scenario which is considered low, came out at 12 TWh in the first half of the year. Even in a 90th percentile climatic scenario, the inflows will not reach normal levels before the summer. The amount of water in the reservoirs is estimated to be close to the 2017-level (42% full) by week 26. The reservoir filling in 2017 was 44% by week 26, whilst normal levels are 62%.

Hydrological development since the New Year

The numbers below are collected from our hydrology web page. They explain the very dry situation. The accumulated precipitation for weeks 2-7 2022 is -2% of normal! Naturally, this has led to reduced production (60% of normal) and inflows (40% of normal).

The development is extreme. To underline this, we have estimated the accumulated precipitation for January & February in the following chart. The chart tells us that the 2022 level is close to the lowest levels of precipitation Spain has seen in 40 years. 2022 represents 14% of the average for these 40 years.

The hydrological balance since the New Year

The next table shows the development in the hydro reservoirs and snow/ground level. We see that the snow/ground reservoir is currently about 6 TWh lower than normal, while the hydro reservoirs are close to 3 TWh lower than normal (38.6 % actual filling vs 51.6% normal). In total, we estimate a hydrological balance of about -9 TWh.

Notice that the parallel SMHI HYPE model we publish on our web pages shows a deficit in the snow/ground/soil of about -9 TWh by the end of week 7. Between our two models, this indicates an uncertainty band of -6 TWh to -9 TWh.

General outlooks: end Q1 and during Q2

The short-term precipitation outlooks are still quite low; we estimate about 70% of normal for the next month meaning that the unchanged hydrological balance should remain fairly stable as inflows and production will still be very low.

Based on our inflow model, which is run in cooperation with SMHI, we are able to do climatic scenario forecasts of inflows based on historical weather up to 8 months ahead. The simulations are based on the 15 Day Ec Ensemble and then further out the historical 40 years of weather data.

As the current soil/groundwater situation is very low, we expect the increase to a normalized inflow situation to be slow. In parallel, we expect a moderate production profile towards the summer by the time we return to “normal” weather.

Detailed inflow simulations and production forecast

The simulations show very clearly that the inflows from week 8 will not reach normal levels before the summer. Only in the 75th-90th percentiles scenario do we see close to normal inflow levels from the start of May.

The previous chart shows the weekly percentiles. The table below shows the accumulated inflows until July 31st (weeks 8 – 31).

We see that even in the 90th percentile alternative we will not reach the long-term average accumulated inflows until week 31. Furthermore, we see the 2022 average of 7,579 GWh is about 6,000 GWh lower than the long-term average inflows, which is well balanced to the current deficit in snow/groundwater of 6 TWh as mentioned. This shows the quality of the inflow scenarios!

Based on the average inflow forecast profile, we have made production and reservoir estimates until the end of week 26 (end Q2). Several scenarios could have been made, but we have focused on the average scenario and comparison to statistics for the period 2016-21.

The production will be close to 50% of the long-term normal, and partly lower than the minimum for the period 2016-2021. Accumulated for H1-2022 we estimate about 10 TWh - which is 56% of the long-term normal, and 2 TWh lower than during 2017.

The reservoir curve will then stay somewhat lower than the 2017 scenario, which is the lowest for the five-year period. The reservoir filling by the end of week 26 is estimated to be 42% (the normal is 62%). The 20% spread to the normal means around 4.5 TWh lower reservoir filling than normal.

Final words

The hydropower outlooks remain extremely low for Spain after the recent low precipitation during January and February. The situation can however be compared to the 2017 scenario when the yearly production came out at 19 TWh (65%), which is about 10 TWh lower than normal.

EQ will follow the situation closely towards the summer and do a blog update later on. Please contact us at support@energyquantified.com if you have any questions.

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