Opportunities for Joint Water-Energy Management: Sensitivity of the 2010 Western U.S. Electricity Grid Operations to Climate Oscillations

Voisin, N. ; Kintner-Meyer, M. ; Wu, D. ; Skaggs, R. ; Fu, T. ; Zhou, T. ; Nguyen, T. ; Kraucunas, I.

Année de publication
The increasing interconnectedness of energy and water systems makes it important to understand how interannual variations in water availability-and climate oscillations-could potentially impact the electric grid operations. The authors assess the vulnerability of the current western U.S. grid to historical climate variability using multiple energy and water system models. A 55-yr-long natural water availability benchmark is combined with the 2010 level of water demand from an integrated assessment model to drive a large-scale water management model over the western United States. The regulated flow at hydropower and thermoelectric power plants is then translated into boundary conditions for electricity generation in a production cost model. This analysis focuses on assessing regional interdependencies and the impact of interannual changes in water availability on power system operations, including reliability, cost, and carbon emissions. Results for August grid operations-when stress on the grid is often highest-show a range of sensitivity in production cost (-8% to +11%) and carbon emissions (-7% to +11%), as well as a 1-in-10 chance that electricity demand will exceed estimated supply. The authors also show that operating costs are lower under neutral El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) conditions than under other ENSO phases; carbon emissions are highest under La Niña conditions, especially in California; and the risk of brownouts may be higher under neutral and negative ENSO conditions. These results help characterize the grid's performance under historical climate variations, are useful for seasonal and multiyear planning of joint water-electricity management, and can be used to support impact, adaptation, and vulnerability analyses.

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