Iceland’s Ice Is Melting So Like a flash That It’s Boosting Hydropower

Melting glaciers are making a inexperienced energy windfall in Iceland—however for how lengthy?

By Francisco “A.J.” Camacho & E&E News

Blue glacier in mountain landscape

A glacier in Iceland.

mantaphoto/Getty Images

CLIMATEWIRE | REYKJAVÍK, Iceland — Few countries can compete with Iceland by come of renewable energy. The island nation will get with regards to 100% of its electrical energy from inexperienced sources, and Iceland has championed the use of both geothermal energy and hydroelectricity.

That makes the country a mannequin for a world trying to fight local climate alternate — which is ironic because Iceland’s electrical grid is larger going to find stronger because the sector will get hotter.

The reason? Hydroelectricity. Or more namely, melting glaciers.


On supporting science journalism

In the event you would be taking half on this text, take discover of supporting our award-a success journalism by subscribing. By buying a subscription you would be helping to be positive the come forward for impactful tales referring to the discoveries and ideas shaping our world on the present time.


Iceland will get more than 70 percent of its energy from hydroelectric stations fed by glacial meltwaters. So because the Earth heats up and glaciers soften quicker, hydroelectric stations can trust more water to tear generators and energy the grid — a silver lining for a rustic mourning its glacial decline.

“When the glaciers soften, then it’d be more manufacturing from hydro,” acknowledged Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, minister of the Atmosphere, Vitality and Native climate, in an interview with E&E News. “We trust now the entirety to be the mecca of inexperienced energy, and that is the reason what we’re desirous to enact.”

Native climate alternate is already making a distinction.

The large majority of Iceland’s glaciers had been shedding mass for the reason that 1990s, and that’s led to an lengthen in hydro influx — a rob that the country’s energy gadget “has been largely ready to construct basically the most of,” in keeping with a describe launched by the European Union.

Locals look the seemingly, too.

“We’re anticipating more for the subsequent hundred years — more water flowing,” acknowledged Guðmundur Finnbogason, a project supervisor with Landsvirkjun, the nationwide energy firm.

Hydro stations are “actually producing gold for us,” acknowledged Finnbogason for the length of a tour of the Írafoss Vitality Role, which is about 30 miles from Iceland’s capital Reykjavík.

The boon in energy, alternatively, comes with two seemingly pitfalls.

The first is wasted energy. A community from the Arctic College of Norway cautioned that at-capacity stations had been bypassing additional water and throwing away seemingly electricity.

Þórðarson, the energy minister, acknowledged the overlooked different.

“We trust now relatively complacent,” he acknowledged. “We’ve no longer done that grand by come of both hydro and geothermal in the closing 15, Twenty years.”

However, he added, “now issues are racy very mercurial.”

The nationwide energy firm plans to construct more generators to clutch the local climate-driven water surplus. Glacial runoff is anticipated to top in about 40 to 50 years.“We’re doing investments to be able to harness this lengthen of movement from the glaciers,” acknowledged Landsvirkjun CEO Hörður Arnarson.The 2d — and more existential — region for Iceland is what to enact when its glaciers trust melted away.The EU describe warns that “practically no Icelandic glaciers shall be left in 2200.”It’s a bleak lengthy-length of time projection, however the expectation is matched by a 2d — and more optimistic — estimate.The Icelandic Meteorological Place of work projects that precipitation will lengthen by 1.2 percent to 4.3 percent by the center of the century, largely as a result of the effects of local climate alternate.So even though the glaciers recede, “we are able to search facts from more water coming to the energy plant life than we did at the start,” acknowledged Arnarson, the Landsvirkjun CEO.However that wetter future is a lot from a given, and scientists caution it’s tough to foretell a 2200 local climate more than 150 years away. Ocean currents that enhance precipitation in Iceland would be long previous or vastly slowed by then, let’s stammer.The uncertainty is why Þórðarson desires Iceland to diversify its grid from hydro and geothermal reliance to consist of wind, and perchance photograph voltaic, tidal and rain energy.“If something occurs, and it would happen in the come or far-off future, then we continuously trust a Notion B,” Þórðarson acknowledged. “We can no longer build the total eggs in the same basket.”

Reprinted from E&E News with permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2024. E&E News affords well-known news for energy and atmosphere consultants.