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Spain Forced To Idle Hydropower Plant As Drought Drains Reservoirs

Spanish utility giant Endesa will idle the fifth-largest hydropower plant in the country from the middle of November after drought and warm weather in recent weeks have reduced water in reservoirs to unsustainably low levels.

Endesa is set to shut down the Mequinenza hydropower plant in northeastern Spain at a time when Europe is struggling with energy supply and helping businesses and households with bills amid soaring prices of electricity and gas.

A warm October across Europe also led to drier than usual weather in Spain so far this autumn. So Endesa is shutting down the Mequinenza hydropower plant after water levels dropped to below 23% of capacity, Bloomberg quoted the company as saying in a statement.

This would be the first time the plant will have closed after it first opened in 1996. If drought conditions persist, Endesa could shut down more hydropower plants in the northeast.

Water levels in reservoirs in Span have dropped this autumn to their lowest since 1995, per Bloomberg estimates based on Spanish government data.

In 2021, hydropower accounted for 11.4% of Spain’s electricity generation, with wind, nuclear power, and combined-cycle generation preceding it in terms of power generation by source.

So far this year, Spain’s hydropower generation has plummeted by 53%, according to data from grid operator Red Electrica Corporacion cited by Bloomberg.

Other countries in Europe have also experienced low water levels, such as Norway, which was hit by drought-like conditions this summer, affecting hydropower output. Hydropower accounts for 90% of Norwegian power generation, with wind accounting for the remaining 10%.

Drought has also affected France’s nuclear power generation this summer.

Nuclear power problems for France, however, have not gone away with the end of the summer. Just last week, France’s energy giant EDF revised down its estimate for the 2022 French nuclear output to 275-285 TWh, compared to the previous estimate of 280-300 TWh. The lowered estimate takes into account the impact of strikes on maintenance schedules in the autumn of 2022, as well as outage extensions at four nuclear reactors involved in the program of inspections and repairs related to the stress corrosion phenomenon, EDF said in a statement.  

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By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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