Tecnalia analyses the impacts of climate change on the energy system in Zarautz and Bilbao


Tecnalia carried out the study, with the collaboration of Tecnun, as part of Action C3.2 of the LIFE IP Urban Klima 2050 project: Mainstreaming climate change in energy policies. The main objective of this study was to assess, on the one hand, the vulnerability of the electricity distribution network to climate change-related extreme events and, on the other, the resilience of urban infrastructures to incidents that could occur in the electricity service as a result of such events. The aim of the above was to integrate it into regional energy policies.

The study focused on two municipal pilot projects: Zarautz and Bilbao. The potential impacts of climate change on their respective electricity distribution networks were analysed through these pilot schemes, making it possible to assess not only the risk to which these infrastructures could be subjected, but also the knock-on effects that incidents in the electricity service could have on other key services and infrastructures in municipalities and on their populations.

The study began with identifying and characterising the electricity infrastructure and urban infrastructure in both municipalities and developing the corresponding systemic risk models. After the risk assessment, the next step was to co-design and prioritise actions to implement the resilience plan.

The ultimate goal of the study is to integrate the results and recommendations into regional energy policies, thereby promoting an energy efficient, less vulnerable, more resilient energy model to tackle climate change. This integration is crucial when it comes to adapting effectively and sustainably, ensuring that key infrastructures and the continuity of the electricity supply are protected in the event of extreme events.

A basis for dealing with future climate events

The study provided valuable information on climate hazards that may affect the normal operation of the electricity distribution network based on prioritised impact chains. Its future behaviour was also analysed in terms of climate change, which will increase uncertainty and risk. The methodology used made it possible to analyse the adequacy of the current network design with respect to coping with current and future climate conditions.

This study was the first step towards developing a more holistic approach, which will consider the knock-on effects on electricity and urban infrastructure and the population. The electricity infrastructure was designed to be highly reliable, which is a good platform for dealing with future climate events. Nevertheless, there is scope for additional adaptation measures to mitigate the impact and optimise the quality of service.