Climate-Water Impacts on Interconnection-Scale Electricity System Planning

Thursday, December 12, 2019 - 13:40
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A growing literature emphasizes the importance of integrating climate change impacts into electricity system planning. Rising average temperatures can increase and shift electricity demand while reducing generator and transmission efficiency. Changes to water availability and quality can reduce the output of thermally cooled generators and hydropower. Electric power grids across the US and globally are undergoing transformational changes that present new opportunities and challenges to reliability assurance. However, electric utilities and system operators have limited internal capabilities to incorporate these effects into planning practices. This work addresses gaps in utility and system planner practices by integrating climate-water-electricity expertise from universities and U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratories with electricity system planners and stakeholders in the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC). Using a highly collaborative approach, global climate model data, high-resolution hydrology models, and long-term electric sector capacity expansion tools are employed to analyze a range of climate outcomes for future electricity scenarios aligned with recent WECC planning studies. Doing so allows WECC to expand its climate-agnostic planning assessments to consider how future temperature and precipitation patterns could influence generation and transmission planning. We explore how changes to climate-water conditions can affect power plant investment and operation, system economics, and environmental impacts, providing an expanded perspective on interconnection-wide decision making under climate uncertainty.

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