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.”