Vulnerabilities Albania – Now
Hydropower makes up a significant percentage (about 20 %) of the total installed capacity for electricity generation in Europe (1). It is estimated that the gross hydropower potential would decrease from the present level of 2500 TWh/a to 2400 TWh/a in the 2070s, under the HadCM3 simulated climate scenarios. A decrease of 25 % or more is projected by the 2070s for hydropower potential of about 6000 European power plants in southern and southeastern Europe (2).
Albania already finds it difficult to meet energy demand and maintain energy supply due to the fluctuations in the country’s rainfall and other precipitation on which hydropower depends. As a result, hydropower production can vary between almost 6,000 GWh in very wet years to less than half that amount in very dry years. In 2007, a drought in the Drin’s watershed led to severe electricity shortages and blackouts, affecting businesses and citizens alike (the River Drin is the main source of electricity for Albania) (3).
Other factors constrain Albania’s ability to manage these challenges, such as limited regional electricity interconnections and inefficiencies in domestic energy supply, demand, and water use. Losses in the electricity distribution system were about 33% in 2008. Together, these factors create frequent load shedding and adversely impact Albania’s economic development (3).
Meanwhile, small hydropower plants compete for limited water resources with the irrigation needs of the agriculture sector. This is exacerbated during summer when rainfall is the lowest and agriculture requires greater water supply (3).
The country’s needs for electricity are met mainly by the hydro power plants and in a small scale, by the thermo power plants. The hydro power plants provide about 94% of the produced electricity, while the rest is produced by thermo power plants that use residual fuel oil as fuel and in special cases use steam coal. Drought in the last years reduced water levels for power generation (the Drini river, supplying 95% of hydro power, was at its lowest level for the last 30 years) to the point of severe and frequent power cuts last years (4).
Vulnerabilities Albania – In the future
In areas where it becomes hotter and drier, the hydro power generation could be virtually reduced year round. A reduction in hydro power generation is expected. Albania is heavily reliant on hydro power electricity production. If a severe drought will happen, it will result in less electricity produced by the hydro power plants. The heavy reliance on hydro power sources may be appropriate for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving air quality in Albania, but can increase vulnerability to climate change (4).
Climate forecasts project an increase in droughts resulting from global warming and changing hydrology. These changes could reduce annual average electricity output from Albania’s large hydropower plants (LHPPs) by about 15% and from small hydropower plants (SHPPs) by around 20% by 2050. Most of the country has already seen decreases in precipitation. The seasonality of Albania’s supply-demand imbalance raises this exposure: summer temperatures increase the demand for cooling and refrigeration at the same time hydropower production is most constrained by reduced rainfall. Summer temperatures also coincide with a greater irrigation need in agriculture, which may compete directly with small hydropower plants for the limited water supplies (3).
Climate change may also affect the supply of energy from solar and wind power. A likely increase in the global solar radiation and the hours of sunshine duration will lead to an increase in the use of solar energy for different energy services, especially for the preparation of domestic hot water. Since, we are expecting an increase in the wind speed up to 1.3 to 2.3 %, by 2050 and 2100 respectively, compared to the period 1961-1990, it might be interesting to think about introducing wind power plants in the energy schemes in the future (4).
Assuming full implementation of the measures already identified in Albania’s draft National Energy Strategy (NES), the potential supply-demand gap was estimated at 350 GWh per year by 2030, equivalent to power generation of 50 MW. By 2050, the shortfall rises to 740 GWh per year (105MW) or 3% of total demand. Embedded within these figures are the more significant seasonal impacts on energy security due to changing demand and production over the year, with summer peak demand increasing when hydropower production is at its lowest (3).
Despite the negative impact of climate change on electricity production by hydropower plants, Albania’sMinistry of Environment expects the electricity generation to increase from 1,795 GWh in 1990 up to 23,816 GWh in 2025. The share between hydro power plants and thermo power plants is expected to go in favor of the latter. So in 1990, 94% of the electricity was generated from hydro power plants and only 6% from thermo power plants, while in 2025 hydro power plants is expected to contribute by 11,353 GWh or 47.68% and thermo power plants with 12,460 GWh or 52.32 % of the total (4).
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 (6,8,9). In areas with increased precipitation and runoff, dam safety may become a problem due to more frequent and intensive flooding events (10).
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) (10,13).
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 (14).
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) (15).
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 (15).
By the 22nd century, land area devoted to biofuels may increase by a factor of two to three in all parts of Europe (7).
It may become more challenging to meet energy demands during peak times due to more frequent heat waves and drought conditions (6). 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 (12).
Small hydropower plants compete for limited water resources with the irrigation needs of the agriculture sector. This is exacerbated during summer when rainfall is the lowest and agriculture requires greater water supply. Improving the efficiency of water use in Albania’s irrigation system, where 10% to 20% of water resources are lost, is an adaptation mechanism that can help both sectors (3).
Currently, efforts are underway to address these challenges and improve resource use efficiency. For instance, the Albanian government has recently decided to eliminate load shedding from 2009 onwards and committed to provide 24 hours of electricity supply. Electricity losses from the distribution system were reduced by 5.5% in 2008 compared to 2007 and losses from the transmission system were 3% in 2008, down from 4% in 2006. The efficiency of water use in energy generation has also improved due to better monitoring and management (3).
Albania’s draft National Energy Strategy (NES) sets out an ‘active scenario’ to improve energy security in the decade to 2020. It targets a majority of identified adaptations and describes plans to diversify the energy system by encouraging development of renewable energy generation assets (e.g., solar, small hydropower plants, wind, biomass) and thermal power. It notes the importance of new electricity interconnection lines, some already under construction, to facilitate Albania’s active participation in the South East European energy market. As currently drafted, the NES does not account for future climate impacts on the performance of new energy assets — neither generation nor transmission. The draft NES does emphasize the need for improved energy efficiency through greater use of domestic solar water heating, improved building standards, use of lower energy appliances, and alternative heating sources other than electricity. These energy efficiency measures are critical and will become increasingly essential as the climate changes (3).
There are several critical actions that Albania could take now to support optimal use of energy, water resources, and operation of hydropower plants today. Enacting these steps now will help Albania better manage climate variability and build the country’s future resilience to climate change (3):
- Improving the way that institutions monitor, forecast, and disseminate information on meteorological and hydro-meteorological conditions. Albania could develop (in-country) or obtain (from elsewhere) weather and climate forecasts appropriate for energy sector planning, covering short-range forecasts (1-3 days), medium-range forecasts (3-10 days), seasonal forecasts, and regional downscaled climate change projections. This information could support energy sector stakeholders to undertake joint climate risk assessments across shared water resources and regional energy networks, and devise agreed strategies to manage identified climate vulnerabilities and risks.
- Improving energy efficiency by reducing system losses and encouraging and helping end users to manage their demand for power. Upgrading Emergency Contingency Plans (ECPs) for hydropower plants where needed, to account for expected increases in precipitation intensity due to climate change. Power producers and local authorities may also need to improve their capacities to implement ECPs, ensuring that they provide sound mechanisms for monitoring weather and its influence on river flows and reservoir levels, as well as communication with downstream communities, and contingency plans for evacuation.
- Ensuring the management and development of water resources integrates all sectors energy, agriculture, water supply and sanitation, and cross-border concerns along with environmental and social concerns. Exploring further adaptation opportunities. Climate change emphasizes the imperative to increase the diversity of its energy supplies through increased regional energy trade and a more diverse portfolio of domestic generation assets. With major investments in upgrading new energy assets on the horizon, and the privatization of assets, the earlier climate risks are considered, the greater the opportunities to identify and implement solutions that make the energy system more robust and resilient for coming decades.
Additional adaptation options are (4):
- Account for the expected change in runoff / water flow rate in the design of hydropower plants. Hydro power facilities can be designed to accommodate lower and/or variable flow rates by: building hydropower intakes at the lowest possible level; making hydropower plants intakes adjustable; using variable blade turbines, which are adjustable to more variable conditions.
- Reduce energy subsidies. In Albania, as in many other ex-socialist countries, energy prices, particularly electricity, are subsidized. Thus consumers pay less than the marginal costs of producing energy. Subsidies can result in a wasteful consumption of energy and can distort the market signals regarding changes in supply and demand, caused by climate change.
- Account for the expected change in runoff/water flow rate in the design of thermal power facilities.
- Building of new and very efficient Thermal Power Plants (TPP) (combined cycle) in order to fill the remaining gap in power supply.
- Maximize the share of Hydropower Plants (HPPs) in the face of climate change impacts through the construction of new medium and big HPPs, and the rehabilitation of Ulza HPP and Shkopet HPP (located in MRCA).
- Maximize the share of HPPs in the face of climate change impacts through the construction of Small HPPs (most of Small HPPs will be run-out-of-river type they will be much more impacted than medium and big HPPs with reservoirs).
The references below are cited in full in a separate map ‘References’. Please click here if you are looking for the full references for Albania.
- European Environment Agency (EEA) (2005)
- Lehner et al. (2001)
- Worldbank (2009)
- Republic of Albania, Ministry of Environment (2002)
- Fida (2008)
- Lehner et al. (2005), in: Alcamo et al. (2007)
- Metzger et al. (2004), in: Alcamo et al. (2007)
- Kirkinen et al. (2005), in: Anderson (ed.) (2007)
- Veijalainen and Vehviläinen (2006); Andréasson et al. (2006), in: Anderson (ed.) (2007)
- Anderson (ed.) (2007)
- Rothstein et al. (2006), in: Anderson (ed.) (2007)
- Alcamo et al., 2007
- EEA, JRC and WHO (2008)
- Behrens et al. (2010)
- Van Vliet et al. (2012)