Climate-Water Adaptation for Future US Electricity Infrastructure

Stuart Cohen, Jordan Macknick, Yinong Sun, Robin Newmark, Ariel Miara, Charles Vorosmarty, Fabio Corsi, Balasz Fekete, Vincent Tidwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus Citations


Future climate-water conditions are anticipated to increase electricity demand, reduce transmission capacity, and limit power production. Yet, typical electricity capacity expansion planning does not consider climate-water constraints. We project four alternative U.S. power system configurations using an iterative modeling and data exchange platform that integrates climate-driven hydrological, thermal power plant, and capacity expansion models. Through a comparison with traditional modeling approaches, we show that this novel approach provides greater confidence in electricity capacity projections by incorporating feasibility checks that adjust infrastructure development to reach grid reliability thresholds under climate-water constraints. Initial projections without climate-water impacts on electricity generation show future power systems become less vulnerable, independent of climate-water adaptation, as economic drivers increase renewable and natural gas-based capacity, while water-intensive coal and nuclear plants retire. However, power systems may face reliability challenges without climate-water adaptation, revealing the significance of incorporating climate-water impacts into power system planning. Climate-adjusted (Iterative approach) projections require a 5.3-12.0% increase in national-level capacity, relative to Initial projections, leading to an additional $125-143 billion (5.0-7.0%) in infrastructure costs. Variable renewable and natural gas technologies account for nearly all the additional capacity and, together with regional trade-offs in electricity generation, enhance grid performance to reach reliability thresholds. These adaptation transitions also lower water use and emissions, contributing to climate change mitigation, and highlight the trade-offs and impacts of both near and long-term electricity generation planning decisions.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)14029-14040
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number23
StatePublished - 3 Dec 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2019 American Chemical Society.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-6A20-72029


  • capacity expansion
  • climate
  • electricity
  • integrated modeling
  • projection
  • water


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