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Integrated hydrological, power system and economic modelling of climate impacts on electricity demand and cost

Abstract

Impacts of climate-related water stress and temperature changes can cascade through energy systems, although models have yet to capture this compounding of effects. Here, we employ a coupled water–power–economy model to capture these important interactions in a study of the exceedance of water temperature thresholds for power generation in the western United States. We find that not all reductions in reserve electricity-generation capacity result in impacts, and that when they occur, intermittent interruptions in electricity supply at critical times of the day, week and year account for much of the economic impacts. Finally, we find that impacts may be in different locations from the original water stress. We estimate that the consumption loss can be up to 0.3% annually and the drivers identified in coupled modelling can increase the average cost of electricity by up to 3%.

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Fig. 1: Electricity cost and unmet demand from 18 high-impact scenarios.
Fig. 2: Economic impacts from 18 high-impact scenarios.
Fig. 3: Sectoral economic impacts from 18 high-impact scenarios and details for one scenario.
Fig. 4: Electricity sector and economy-wide impacts before and after economic adjustment from 18 high-impact scenarios.
Fig. 5: Geographic distribution of impacts on the power system network for one example week.

Data availability

Source data are provided with this paper. The datasets from this analysis are publicly available. The results of GFDL Sullivan feedback are available at https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5655246. The results of GFDL no Sullivan feedback are available at https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5655255. The WBM output daily discharge and water temperature all GCMs are available at https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.5655275. Access to portions of the input data pertaining to the network and hydrogeneration schedules require permission from the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC), https://www.wecc.org/Pages/home.aspx. All remaining data are available upon request from the corresponding author.

Code availability

All code is available from the corresponding author on request.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the US Department of Energy, Office of Science, Biological and Environmental Research Program, Earth and Environmental Systems Modeling, Multi Sector Dynamics, contract no. DE-SC0016162. We thank S. Glidden (UNH) who harmonized and geolocated the power-plant database and A. Prusevich (UNH) who ran the WBM for these experiments and generated the data for Supplementary Table 1 and Supplementary Fig. 2.

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Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

M.W., K.F.-V. and R.B.L. conceived and designed the experiments. M.W., K.F.-V., V.K. and R.B.L. analysed the data. M.W., K.F.-V., J.P., V.K. and R.B.L. developed the models and coordinated the model experiments. M.W., K.F.-V. and R.B.L. wrote the paper.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Mort Webster.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

Peer review information

Nature Energy thanks Andres Clarens and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Notes 1–8, Figs. 1–9 and Tables 1–5.

Source data

Source Data Fig. 1

Cost and unmet demand of selected scenarios, discrete event counts for unmet-demand episodes.

Source Data Fig. 2

Economic losses from scenarios due to cost only, unmet demand only and both factors.

Source Data Fig. 3

Manufacturing losses by scenario, sectoral losses by sector for one scenario.

Source Data Fig. 4

Economic impacts with and without economic adjustment.

Source Data Fig. 5

Locations of generator outages, congested transmission lines and locations of unmet demand.

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Webster, M., Fisher-Vanden, K., Kumar, V. et al. Integrated hydrological, power system and economic modelling of climate impacts on electricity demand and cost. Nat Energy 7, 163–169 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41560-021-00958-8

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