Table of contents

3.4.3. Storms

Wind, hail, ice and snow storms can adversely affect energy transformation and transport, transmission, distribution and storage infrastructure, resulting in blackouts and costly repairs (Rübbelke and Vögele, 2011). Power lines and wind turbines are particularly affected. For example, the series of windstorms that struck central western Europe in December 1999 (‘Lothar’ and ‘Martin’) were estimated to have caused € 15 billion of economic losses overall, with associated blackouts affecting 3.4 million people (Groenemeijer, 2015). Ice and snow storms, although highly regionally-specific, can also have important impacts on onshore electricity transmission infrastructure (Forzieri et al., 2018). When ice or snow accumulates on energy infrastructure such as cables, significant and costly damage and power outages can take place.

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Structural enforcement of pylons and improved vegetation management are important elements of making power lines more resilient to storms. Underground cabling is also considered in several European countries as a measure to reduce storm damage, but it is an expensive adaptation option (see the case study in Section 4.6.4).

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Hail storms are most frequent in mountainous areas and pre-Alpine regions. They can create costly damages, in particular to solar panels (Ebinger and Vergara, 2011). Increasing hail trends have been noted in southern France and Austria, and decreasing (but not statistically significant) trends have been noted in parts of eastern Europe. Future projections of hail events are subject to large uncertainties, but model-based studies for central Europe show some agreement that hailstorm frequency will increase in this region (EEA, 2017d).

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Wet snow is an important hazard for power lines that can cause the interruption of electricity supply. It is generated in conditions of surface temperatures close to 0 °C, high humidity and moderate winds, which promote the accumulation of snow on power. This occurrence is often observed over the Mediterranean area (Bonelli et al., 2011; Llasat et al., 2014). The meteorological conditions for wet snow accretion are complex, and there are currently no reliable long-term projections for this hazard.

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