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Title: Examining global electricity supply vulnerability to climate change using a high-fidelity hydropower dam model

Here, an important and plausible impact of a changing global climate is altered power generation from hydroelectric dams. Here we project 21st century global hydropower production by forcing a coupled, global hydrological and dam model with three General Circulation Model (GCM) projections run under two emissions scenarios. Dams are simulated using a detailed model that accounts for plant specifications, storage dynamics, reservoir bathymetry and realistic, optimized operations. We show that the inclusion of these features can have a non-trivial effect on the simulated response of hydropower production to changes in climate. Simulation results highlight substantial uncertainty in the direction of change in globally aggregated hydropower production (~–5 to + 5% change in mean global production by the 2080s under a high emissions scenario, depending on GCM). Several clearly impacted hotspots are identified, the most prominent of which encompasses the Mediterranean countries in southern Europe, northern Africa and the Middle East. In this region, hydropower production is projected to be reduced by approximately 40% on average by the end of the century under a high emissions scenario. After accounting for each country's dependence on hydropower for meeting its current electricity demands, the Balkans countries emerge as the most vulnerable (~ 5–20%more » loss in total national electricity generation depending on country). On the flipside, a handful of countries in Scandinavia and central Asia are projected to reap a significant increase in total electrical production (~ 5–15%) without investing in new power generation facilities.« less
ORCiD logo [1] ; ORCiD logo [2] ; ORCiD logo [3]
  1. Pacific Northwest National Lab. (PNNL), Richland, WA (United States); SUTD-MIT International Design Centre (Singapore)
  2. SUTD-MIT International Design Centre (Singapore); Veolia City Modelling Centre (Singapore)
  3. Singapore Univ. of Tech. and Design (Singapore)
Publication Date:
Report Number(s):
Journal ID: ISSN 0048-9697; PII: S0048969717305272
Grant/Contract Number:
AC057601830; IDG 21400101
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Science of the Total Environment
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 590-591; Journal Issue: C; Journal ID: ISSN 0048-9697
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Lab. (PNNL), Richland, WA (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
Country of Publication:
United States
13 HYDRO ENERGY; hydropower; climate change; water resources; dams; global; water-energy nexus
OSTI Identifier: