Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Electric Power Industry and Climate Change: Power Systems Research Possibilities

A new Power Systems Engineering Research Center (PSERC) white paper is available to download.

The Electric Power Industry and Climate Change: Power Systems Research Possibilities is a project report from the Power Systems Engineering Research Center (PSERC). PSERC is an U.S. multi-university center conducting research on challenges facing a restructuring electric power industry and educating the next generation of power engineers.


Tom Overbye, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Judith Cardell, Smith College
Ian Dobson, University of Wisconsin - Madison
Ward Jewell, Wichita State University
Mladen Kezunovic, Texas A&M University
P. K. Sen, Colorado School of Mines
Daniel Tylavsky, Arizona State University

Executive Summary

The interaction of the electric power industry with climate is manifested in both the effect that severe weather has on the power system and the contribution of electric power to the production of greenhouse gases (GHG) and other pollutants. It is estimated that the United States is the source of one-fourth of the world’s GHG emissions and that the electric power industry accounts for one-third of these. Within the total GHG emissions, CO2 emissions account for more than 80 percent of the overall U.S. contribution, and 38 percent of this amount is derived from the electric power sector.

In response to increasing concerns over global climate change, this white paper identifies possible research needs for PSERC to pursue that are related to interactions between the power industry and global climate change. The technologies that can aide in the mitigation and adaptation to climate change trends have to be enabled by the power system infrastructure. Contributions could come through researching and clarifying the following: (i) power infrastructure capability to respond to climate change and extreme weather events; (ii) relative impact of climate change issues on system operating strategies (e.g., system dispatch), system configurations (e.g., network islanding and microgrids), and expansion plans; (iii) system effects of an expanded use of renewable and alternative energy technologies; and (iv) impacts of market rules and policy mandates on the operations of the power system and sustainability and, subsequently, on the national economy.

Accordingly, this white paper identifies possible research areas in the following categories:
  • Interaction between the production of greenhouse gases and the production, consumption, and delivery of electricity.
  • Extreme weather statistics and events, and the potential impact on power system blackouts and component failures.
  • Electricity market issues that relate to climate change.
  • Federal, state and other local policies on climate change that affect the electric power industry.
  • Long-range planning of the electric power and other industries with respect to climate change and sustainability.

Themes from previous PSERC research, including developing analysis tools, understanding risk and uncertainty, promoting interregional coordination, analyzing market design and behavior and integrating new technologies into the power system.

Through lists of possible research areas, this paper demonstrates that PSERC researchers are well positioned to contribute to research needs in the broad, interrelated areas of power system-climate change interactions. The next steps will be to continue this discussion at PSERC meetings and to integrate these issues into future research solicitations.

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