Climate Change and Future U.S. Electricity Infrastructure: the Nexus between Water Availability, Land Suitability, and Low-Carbon Technologies

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 10:35 AM
Jennie Rice1, Todd Halter1, Mohamad Issa Hejazi2, Erik Jensen1, Lu Liu2, Jarrod Olson3, Pralit Patel2, Chris R Vernon1, Nathalie Voisin3 and Nino Zuljevic1, (1)Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA, United States, (2)Joint Global Change Research Institute at the University of Maryland, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, College Park, MD, United States, (3)PNNL, Seattle, WA, United States
Integrated assessment models project the future electricity generation mix under different policy, technology, and socioeconomic scenarios, but they do not directly address site-specific factors such as interconnection costs, population density, land use restrictions, air quality, NIMBY concerns, or water availability that might affect the feasibility of achieving the technology mix. Moreover, since these factors can change over time due to climate, policy, socioeconomics, and so on, it is important to examine the dynamic feasibility of integrated assessment scenarios “on the ground.” This paper explores insights from coupling an integrated assessment model (GCAM-USA) with a geospatial power plant siting model (the Capacity Expansion Regional Feasibility model, CERF) within a larger multi-model framework that includes regional climate, hydrologic, and water management modeling. GCAM-USA is a dynamic-recursive market equilibrium model simulating the impact of carbon policies on global and national markets for energy commodities and other goods; one of its outputs is the electricity generation mix and expansion at the state-level. It also simulates water demands from all sectors that are downscaled as input to the water management modeling. CERF simulates siting decisions by dynamically representing suitable areas for different generation technologies with geospatial analyses (informed by technology-specific siting criteria, such as required mean streamflow per the Clean Water Act), and then choosing siting locations to minimize interconnection costs (to electric transmission and gas pipelines). CERF results are compared across three scenarios simulated by GCAM-USA: 1) a non-mitigation scenario (RCP8.5) in which conventional fossil-fueled technologies prevail, 2) a mitigation scenario (RCP4.5) in which the carbon price causes a shift toward nuclear, carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), and renewables, and 3) a repeat of scenario (2) in which CCS technologies are made unavailable—resulting in a large increase in the nuclear fraction of the mix.