Energy blackout

Explanation of the problem

In extreme cases, heat, often combined with drought, can lead to problems at power plants. Drought causes a low water level in rivers, resulting in a lack of cooling water; heat causes excessively high temperatures of the cooling water. This situation can lead to a reduced production capacity, forcing power plants to scale back their energy production (brownout) or even shut down completely (energy blackout), affecting society as a whole: households, healthcare, agriculture, livestock, industry, telecommunications, transportation, etc.

Moreover, higher air temperatures significantly reduce the efficiency of electricity generation, decrease the transmission capacity of cables (due to higher resistance), and increase the likelihood of expansion and even rupture of high-voltage cables.

In the Netherlands, power supply failures can generally be managed: there is a dense high-voltage network, and other sources, possibly from abroad, can assist in emergencies. However, even in the Netherlands, an energy blackout is not inconceivable, and the situation worsens if the failure of power plants coincides with other emergencies, such as a sudden increase in energy demand and the failure of nodes in the electricity infrastructure. Energy companies and network operators must prevent this from becoming a reality. Managers of critical infrastructure must be aware of the consequences of brownouts and blackouts and implement measures/emergency plans accordingly.

Information and maps for better understanding

Basic maps according to the standardized stress test


Additional maps

  • Map showing the number of summer or tropical days now and in the future (Climate Impact Atlas) → provides an indication of the increase in problems related to cooling water.
  • Locations of power plants that require cooling water in combination with the vulnerability of cooling water to heat and drought.
  • Locations of critical infrastructure where blackouts can have cascade effects (infrastructure bottlenecks, communication networks, hospitals, water purification plants) and information on their specific sensitivity to blackouts and brownouts.

Some measures and guidelines

  • Implement energy generation and storage systems that are less susceptible to failure during heat and drought.
  • Design electricity distribution substations/boxes to prevent overheating.
  • Refer to measures for cooling water.