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Title: Water demands for electricity generation in the U.S.: Modeling different scenarios for the water–energy nexus

Water withdrawal for electricity generation in the United States accounts for approximately half the total freshwater withdrawal. With steadily growing electricity demands, a changing climate, and limited water supplies in many water-scarce states, meeting future energy and water demands poses a significant socio-economic challenge. Employing an integrated modeling approach that can capture the energy-water interactions at regional and national scales is essential to improve our understanding of the key drivers that govern those interactions and the role of national policies. In this study, the Global Change Assessment Model (GCAM), a technologically-detailed integrated model of the economy, energy, agriculture and land use, water, and climate systems, was extended to model the electricity and water systems at the state level in the U.S. (GCAM-USA). GCAM-USA was employed to estimate future state-level electricity generation and consumption, and their associated water withdrawals and consumption under a set of six scenarios with extensive details on the generation fuel portfolio, cooling technology mix, and their associated water use intensities. Six scenarios of future water demands of the U.S. electric-sector were explored to investigate the implications of socioeconomics development and growing electricity demands, climate mitigation policy, the transition of cooling systems, electricity trade, and water saving technologies.more » Our findings include: 1) decreasing water withdrawals and substantially increasing water consumption from both climate mitigation and the conversion from open-loop to closed-loop cooling systems; 2) open trading of electricity benefiting energy scarce yet demand intensive states; 3) within state variability under different driving forces while across state homogeneity under certain driving force ; 4) a clear trade-off between water consumption and withdrawal for the electricity sector in the U.S. The paper discusses this withdrawal-consumption trade-off in the context of current national policies and regulations that favor decreasing withdrawals (increasing consumptive use), and the role of water saving technologies. The highly-resolved nature of this study both geographically and technologically provides a useful platform to address scientific and policy relevant and emerging issues at the heart of the water-energy nexus in the U.S.« less
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Resource Type:
Journal Article
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Journal Name: Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 94:318-334
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Richland, WA (US)
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Country of Publication:
United States
GCAM; water demand