HyMELT: HYdro power: iMpact on the ELecTricity sector in Austria due to Climate Change in glaciated high alpine areas

The strong decrease of alpine glaciers due to climate change is a fact. Overall, most Austrian glaciers will have disappeared by the end of the 21st century, with the rate of retreat depending mainly on topography, glacier size and dynamics, seasonal snow cover and the considered climate scenario. Currently, glacier melt serves as an important support for energy production, especially in critical times such as persistent dry weather periods and low flow situations in combination with heat waves. It is questionable whether and for how long the hydropower sector can still rely on glacier melt. In this context, HyMELT-CC analyses the development of hydropower production for different climate forcing. This will be investigated in detail for two high-alpine areas, and with upscaling techniques for the whole of Austria. Since the local development of the glaciers as well as the melting behaviour strongly depends on the seasonal snow cover, the glacier dynamics and mass balance as well as the snow cover, complex physically-based models in high spatial resolution will be used to simulate changes in the areas of the glaciers. The glacier- and snowmelt is passed to a conceptual hydrologic model to simulate discharges of the catchments and hydropower plant inflows. As a final step, the simulated runoff is fed into energy system models to evaluate the changing generation behaviour of hydropower in interaction with the whole power system. This provides stakeholders with an important basis for planning, gaining knowledge about climate change impacts, and enabling adjustments. To validate individual components of the entire modelling chain of snow, glacier, runoff and hydropower generation, spatially and temporally high-resolution information, such as reservoir inflow measurements and snow depth maps, as well as expert knowledge from hydropower plant operators.
The University of Innsbruck (ACINN) is mainly engaged in advising and modeling dynamic glacier evolution as part of the overall modeling chain. Project website:

Project Leader:


Funding Agency:
Klima- und Energiefonds

Project Duration:
01/12/2022 to 31/05/2025


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