Risks due to climate change

Climate changes may affect the Stedin area in the long term. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that even with limited global warming of up to 1.5 degrees, significant losses and damage are inevitable. This damage will be caused by weather extremes with potential water damage, heat or drought. There is also an increased risk of flooding. Stedin is therefore committed to preventing climate change (climate mitigation), as well as preparing for the risks of a changed climate (climate adaptation).

Potential effects of climate change

Physical risks

Heavy precipitation, drought, heat and fires

Damage to energy infrastructures

Damage to assets

Increase of energy outage duration

Damage to the transmission and distribution infrastructure

Damage in the upstream and downstream energy chains

Rise in sea levels, flooding, water damage

Damage to energy infrastructures

Damage to assets

Damage in the upstream and downstream energy chains

Temperature rise

Damage to assets

Higher electricity consumption by air-conditioning systems

Potential effects of climate change

Risks associated with the energy transition

Through sustainable innovations, Stedin contributes to technologies and systems that combat the negative effects of climate change

Electrification of society

Vulnerability of components

Opportunities for hydrogen

Storage of energy

Regulation policy

Financing the energy transition

Increasing scarcity of raw materials

Major price increases

Accelerating the energy transition

Feasibility of sustainability objectives, including those related to circularity, CO₂ emission reduction, biodiversity

The main risks posed to Stedin by climate change stem from more extreme weather conditions, such as extremely heavy precipitation, resulting in water damage and/or flooding, extreme gusts of wind, and heat waves, resulting in drought. The Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) predicts that in the future, flooding will also become more likely due to rising sea levels. For Stedin, heat stress is a particular risk in urban areas due to ‘heat islands’. High temperatures can cause equipment to become less efficient. We currently monitor heat through approximately 145 larger stations. The monitoring data shows that high temperatures occur around three times a year.

Our employees who work outdoors are personally affected by climate change. So far, clothing provides adequate protection and ice and/or water are regularly distributed during periods of extreme heat. Stedin follows KNMI weather alerts and shares advice to wear a cap, use sunscreen and drink plenty of water. If a Code Red warning is issued, we do not operate. In the event of a Code Orange or Yellow warning, we will make our own assessment depending on the location and type of work. Final responsibility always lies with the employee. The rule ‘We work safely or we don’t work at all’ always applies. Any employee may therefore stop work, including in unexpected weather conditions.

Sustainable developments in the energy transition are causing a shift in the sources of electricity generation, with an increasing share being generated by solar, wind and hydropower (Statistics Netherlands figures for 2021: 33.1% share; 2022: 39.7% share). Consequently, electricity generation in Stedin’s network area will be more vulnerable to extreme weather events.

The main concern is a period of cloudy, windless days in winter, when demand for electricity is high and limited additional gas for electricity may be available due to the high demand for gas for heating.

Situations abroad can also lead to risks for Stedin, for instance because grids are becoming more interconnected at an international level. This increases vulnerability to extreme weather events, such as heavy rain and heat waves, abroad. The most likely climate change risk for Stedin will then lie in price increases, if weather extremes in Europe or elsewhere in the world lead to temporary shortages and disruptions in the supply of raw materials, products and services. Stedin employees travelling on business may also fall victim to weather extremes in a disaster area.

It is beneficial for Stedin when international climate risks and opportunities are explicitly taken into account in policy choices and strategic investment decisions. Such an approach means that risks can be mitigated, opportunities can be seized, multiple goals can be combined and the effectiveness of our climate policy can be increased.

Water damage and flooding

The likelihood of the Netherlands experiencing electricity grid outages due to weather extremes such as water damage and/or flooding is low for now. However, if such events occur, they could have a major impact on the operation of the grids in the affected part of our service area.

Water damage and flooding are the subject of numerous case studies within our service area. Using advanced calculation models, we identify the infrastructure that could be affected and what the impact would be on the electricity supply.

Since 2015, the Delta Decision on Spatial Adaptation (Deltabesluit ruimtelijke adaptatie) has made it mandatory for managers of vital infrastructure to conduct ongoing research into the impact of water damage and flooding on the functioning of that infrastructure. Where necessary, Stedin must take appropriate control measures to ensure that our infrastructure is more water-robust and climate-proof by 2050. Care must also be taken to ensure that new spatial developments do not further increase risks caused by extreme weather and flooding.

In recent years, Stedin has worked with Netbeheer Nederland to perform research into the vulnerability of our grids. We have carried out tests in cooperation with the TU Eindhoven where components in our low and medium voltage grids were submerged. Among other things, these tests showed that a low voltage installation can continue to function for a long time if it is submerged in fresh water. But with salt water, the power supply is interrupted almost immediately. These insights help us to assess the impact of flooding risks on our business operations.

Together with municipalities, security regions and large businesses such as the Port of Rotterdam Authority, Stedin has also carried out area studies to share and identify the impact of flooding on a region-by-region basis. This type of regional approach is useful and necessary, because the location, differences in land use and the flooding probabilities are determining factors for the effectiveness for adaptation measures. The studies show that the electricity grid is more robust than is commonly believed. Back-up systems (redundancy) in the grid allow for alternative routes and limit the impact, demonstrating that electricity transmission does not come to an immediate halt. Electricity outages are then mostly confined to the area actually under water.

Our conclusion is therefore that, due to the relatively low probability of flooding, it is not cost-effective to make changes to our asset stations in this respect. Therefore, the challenge is to look for logical times when further climate-proofing of these stations can be carried out, such as when new stations are built or existing stations are expanded.

Extreme temperatures

It is getting warmer, with more frequent peaks of extremely higher temperatures. These temperatures can have a negative effect on the useful life of our infrastructure. The temperature in our asset stations can rise considerably to the point where our installations cannot easily disperse the heat. We have had sensors developed to monitor this effectively. These give us better insight into temperature and humidity in our electricity stations. This information is used to implement measures aimed at improving set-up conditions, which ensures the optimal performance of stations and the preservation of their maximum useful life.

Extra attention will be devoted to the heat issue in new build. This will involve the insulation of roofs and façades, better ventilation and the use of green roofs. For a pilot project in 2021, we installed a green roof on the transmission station at Benjamin Franklinstraat in Rotterdam. We are now seeing the results of this: there have been no critical heat reports since the installation of the green roof and the improvement to the ventilation. In 2024, we will continue to pursue innovations in building and construction, and we will develop policy aimed at modifying existing infrastructure where necessary and developing new construction or expansion of stations in such a way that climate risks are minimised.