Overview of the National Energy-Water System (NEWS) Assessment Framework Study
In practical terms, strategic planning for the nation’s economic, social and environmental future increasingly centers on issues relating to fresh water. U.S. energy security is highly dependent on electricity generated by the nation’s fleet of thermoelectric power stations, which today contribute 90% to total electricity production. This presentation summarizes the overall structure and recent progress on a study devoted to climate adaptation and the reliability of power sector infrastructure and operations, when viewed through the lens of strategic water issues. The focus is on electric power infrastructure, i.e., the types, spatial distributions and levels of investment in technologies that deliver or could deliver electricity to the U.S. economy. The work is guided by a central hypothesis, that today’s portfolio of electric power sector infrastructure is unsustainable in the context of satisfying its water needs under anticipated climate change and rising electricity demands. Insofar as water-mediated feedbacks reverberate throughout the national economy, we include macro-economic perspectives as well. The work is organized around the technical development of the NEWS framework which is then used to evaluate, in the context of anticipated climate, economic change and regulatory context: the performance of the nation’s electricity sector, the feasibility of alternative pathways to improve climate adaptation, and impacts of energy technology. Scenarios are co-designed with a stakeholder community, and investment tradeoffs are considered with respect to the productivity of the economy, water availability and aquatic ecosystem condition.