Continued Cold Spell: Three Pools in South Iceland Closed

Low cost of electricity in Iceland compared with the rest of Europe

Three public pools in South Iceland will be closed indefinitely today to save hot water, RÚV reports. Iceland’s national utility company does not expect rationing to affect households. Temperatures around the country are expected to drop further this week.

A spell of freezing temperatures

Temperatures in Iceland have barely risen above 0°C over the past days – and the weather is expected to get colder as the week progresses. As noted by RÚV, households in Iceland have been kept warm by an abundance of geothermal energy, and according to information from Veitur – Iceland’s national utility company – the country’s hot-water system is well equipped to handle the cold spell; the system has yet to reach its limit, although Veitur will continue to assess the state of the system on a daily basis.

Even though the country’s hot-water supply is expected to handle the coming cold without incident, Rangárveitur, which manages the hot-water supply in three municipalities in South Iceland, is nearing its limit, a press release from Veitur notes. In light of the cold weather, the local authorities have decided to close three public pools in the area – in Hvolsvöllur, Hella, and Laugaland – starting today. The authorities hope that the pools will only be closed for a few days, or over the coldest period.

Order of priority

As far as additional reductions to the hot-water supply are concerned, a Veitur spokesperson told RÚV that cuts were always made first among large users – bathing lagoons, public pools, and butcheries, e.g. In the event of forced rationing, Veitur screens for “essential services” while also assessing whether relevant water conduits were capable of withstanding closures. As it stands, there is enough hot water to keep Icelandic households warm, although Veitur could be forced to make brief reductions (as in the case of the public pools in the Rangárvellir municipality).

Veitur recommends that homeowners keep their hot-water usage within reasonable limits. Ideally, radiator valves are to be set at 3 (20°C), allowing the thermostatic valve to detect the temperature in the room and adjust accordingly. Windows should be kept closed.

Hot-Water Supply Nearing Limit, Rationing to be Considered

Krísuvík - Seltún - hverasvæði - Reykjanes

The nation’s hot-water supply is nearing its limit, Vísir reports. Utility companies may need to begin rationing hot water during long periods of cold weather, a specialist at Samorka has stated.

Demand outpacing supply

Samorka, a federation of energy and utility companies in Iceland, held an open meeting at the Harpa Conference Hall yesterday. During the meeting, specialists assessed the hot-water supply of the largest utility companies and reviewed forecasts of future demand.

In an interview with Vísir, Lovísa Árnadóttir, Samorka’s public relations officer, stated that the situation at the nation’s utility companies was serious: hot-water use has outpaced population growth. Utility companies are stretched to the limit trying to meet the current demand – not to mention the growing demand in the future. The demand in the capital area is expected to increase by 3% annually.

“If we peer further into the future, to the year 2060, for example, forecasts suggest that the output of the entire heating system would need to be doubled. In terms of relative size: the Hellisheiði Power Station, which provides hot water for most of Reykjavík, is approximately twice the size of the Kárahnjúka Power Station. And so we’re talking about a lot of energy, and doubling the output is no small task,” Lovísa told Vísir.

Approximately 60% of the energy used in Iceland comprises hot water for domestic heating, baths, and other household consumption. This amounts to 43 terawatt hours (a unit of energy equal to outputting one trillion watts for one hour), or twice the amount of energy produced by all of the nation’s electric power stations.

“The current production areas are already operating at maximum capacity, and so we need to look for ways to make them more efficient. We could do this by, for example, encouraging individuals to use their hot water more frugally,” Lovísa remarked. This could be accomplished by encouraging individuals to take brief showers instead of baths and by managing sidewalk heating during the summer. Utility companies all over Iceland are considering their next steps.

“The problem is that geothermal exploration takes a long time, which is part of the problem why we’re struggling to meet demand right now: because increased demand has exceeded forecasts and geothermal exploration can take a decade. Familiarising ourselves with new geothermal systems also takes time.”

Changing consumption patterns

Speaking in layman’s terms, Almar Barja, a specialist at Samorka, stated that utility companies may need to ration hot water, possibly to households, businesses, and service providers – in the event of long periods of cold weather this winter or the next. According to Almar, it is not clear how the problem is to be solved, at least in the short term, an article in Vísir notes.

Almar also noted that consumption patterns were changing, with individuals opting for roomier homes, more people choosing to live alone, and families shrinking. All of this means that an increasingly greater number of square metres need to be heated. Almar added that Samorka was also not seeing frugal use among consumers nor the expected contraction in hot-water use following directives on the insulation of houses, the improved insulation of new houses, e.g. by floor heating.”