The Sayano-Shushenskaya hydropower station, operated by OAO Rushydro, stands on the Yenisey river near Sayanogorsk, Russia. (Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg)

Climate Change Wreaking Havoc on the World's Hydropower Plants

(Bloomberg) -- Climate change is hard to ignore when you’re in the hydropower business, said Christian Rynning-Tonnesen, chief of Norway’s largest power producer.

“The general trend all over the world is areas that are dry become more dry and areas that are wet become more wet,” Rynning-Tonnesen, chief executive officer of the renewable electricity generator Statkraft AS, said in an interview in New York on Thursday.

As a result of more extreme weather, Rynning-Tonnesen said, Statkraft has had to more than double its spending in the past decade to reinforce dams and ensure they can withstand conditions like heavy rain. Norway has seen about five percent more rain than it used to and is dealing with more intense periods of heavy precipitation, he said.

“It will be like tropical rain in Norway,” Rynning-Tonnesen said.

Scientists have long warned that climate change threatens power plants. A study published in 2016 projected that global hydropower capacity would drop by as much as 3.6 percent in the 2050s -- only to almost double that amount by the 2080s. In North America, water levels at some hydro plants have also risen, Brookfield Renewable Partners LP chief executive officer Sachin Shah told analysts in a call on Thursday. He added that the company’s plants are still secure and that water levels have begun to dissipate.

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