Water-Constrained Electric Sector Capacity Expansion Modeling Under Climate Change Scenarios

Wednesday, 16 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Stuart Michael Cohen1, Jordan Macknick1, Ariel Miara2, Charles J Vorosmarty3, Kristen Averyt4, James Meldrum5, Fabio Corsi6 and Alex Prousevitch7, (1)National Renewable Energy Laboratory Golden, Golden, CO, United States, (2)CUNY City College, Environmental Crossroads Initiative, New York, NY, United States, (3)CCNY-Environ Crossroads Initi, New York, NY, United States, (4)CIRES, Boulder, CO, United States, (5)University of Colorado Boulder, CIRES, Boulder, CO, United States, (6)CUNY City College, Department of Civil Engineering, New York, NY, United States, (7)University of New Hampshire, Climate Change Research Center, Durham, NH, United States
Over 80% of U.S. electricity generation uses a thermoelectric process, which requires significant quantities of water for power plant cooling. This water requirement exposes the electric sector to vulnerabilities related to shifts in water availability driven by climate change as well as reductions in power plant efficiencies. Electricity demand is also sensitive to climate change, which in most of the United States leads to warming temperatures that increase total cooling-degree days. The resulting demand increase is typically greater for peak demand periods. This work examines the sensitivity of the development and operations of the U.S. electric sector to the impacts of climate change using an electric sector capacity expansion model that endogenously represents seasonal and local water resource availability as well as climate impacts on water availability, electricity demand, and electricity system performance. Capacity expansion portfolios and water resource implications from 2010 to 2050 are shown at high spatial resolution under a series of climate scenarios. Results demonstrate the importance of water availability for future electric sector capacity planning and operations, especially under more extreme hotter and drier climate scenarios. In addition, region-specific changes in electricity demand and water resources require region-specific responses that depend on local renewable resource availability and electricity market conditions. Climate change and the associated impacts on water availability and temperature can affect the types of power plants that are built, their location, and their impact on regional water resources.