The University of Southampton
University of Southampton Institutional Repository

Response of electricity sector air pollution emissions to drought conditions in the western United States

Response of electricity sector air pollution emissions to drought conditions in the western United States
Response of electricity sector air pollution emissions to drought conditions in the western United States

Water is needed for hydroelectric generation and to cool thermoelectric power plants. This dependence on water makes electricity generation vulnerable to droughts. Furthermore, because power sector CO2 emissions amount to approximately one third of total US emissions, droughts could influence the inter-annual variability of state- and national-scale emissions. However, the magnitude of drought-induced changes in power sector emissions is not well understood, especially in the context of climate mitigation policies. Using multivariate linear regressions, we find that droughts are positively correlated to increases in electricity generation from natural gas in California, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington; and from coal in Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. Using a statistical model, we estimate that this shift in generation sources led to total increases in regional emissions of 100 Mt of CO2, 45 kt of SO2, and 57 kt of NO x from 2001 to 2015, most of which originated in California, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming. The CO2 emissions induced by droughts in California, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington amounted to 7%-12% of the total CO2 emissions from their respective power sectors, and the yearly rates were 8%-15% of their respective 2030 yearly targets outlined in the Clean Power Plan (CPP). Although there is uncertainty surrounding the CPP, its targets provide appropriate reference points for climate mitigation goals for the power sector. Given the global importance of hydroelectric and thermoelectric power, our results represent a critical step in quantifying the impact of drought on pollutant emissions from the power sector - and thus on mitigation targets - in other regions of the world.

climate change mitigation, climate impacts, climate variability, drought, emissi, North America, water-energy nexus
1748-9318
1-11
Herrera-Estrada, Julio E.
81b87fc8-5a36-4622-8a55-eef06e9c9485
Diffenbaugh, Noah S.
e5906b95-f642-42a5-a22c-33f5ea3fc68d
Wagner, Fabian
534ca168-5cc5-4ae0-8534-2215b188bb5f
Craft, Amy
c3cad35a-b60f-427d-8827-ab6d68041d5d
Sheffield, Justin
dd66575b-a4dc-4190-ad95-df2d6aaaaa6b
Herrera-Estrada, Julio E.
81b87fc8-5a36-4622-8a55-eef06e9c9485
Diffenbaugh, Noah S.
e5906b95-f642-42a5-a22c-33f5ea3fc68d
Wagner, Fabian
534ca168-5cc5-4ae0-8534-2215b188bb5f
Craft, Amy
c3cad35a-b60f-427d-8827-ab6d68041d5d
Sheffield, Justin
dd66575b-a4dc-4190-ad95-df2d6aaaaa6b

Herrera-Estrada, Julio E., Diffenbaugh, Noah S., Wagner, Fabian, Craft, Amy and Sheffield, Justin (2018) Response of electricity sector air pollution emissions to drought conditions in the western United States. Environmental Research Letters, 13 (12), 1-11, [124032]. (doi:10.1088/1748-9326/aaf07b).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Water is needed for hydroelectric generation and to cool thermoelectric power plants. This dependence on water makes electricity generation vulnerable to droughts. Furthermore, because power sector CO2 emissions amount to approximately one third of total US emissions, droughts could influence the inter-annual variability of state- and national-scale emissions. However, the magnitude of drought-induced changes in power sector emissions is not well understood, especially in the context of climate mitigation policies. Using multivariate linear regressions, we find that droughts are positively correlated to increases in electricity generation from natural gas in California, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington; and from coal in Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. Using a statistical model, we estimate that this shift in generation sources led to total increases in regional emissions of 100 Mt of CO2, 45 kt of SO2, and 57 kt of NO x from 2001 to 2015, most of which originated in California, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming. The CO2 emissions induced by droughts in California, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington amounted to 7%-12% of the total CO2 emissions from their respective power sectors, and the yearly rates were 8%-15% of their respective 2030 yearly targets outlined in the Clean Power Plan (CPP). Although there is uncertainty surrounding the CPP, its targets provide appropriate reference points for climate mitigation goals for the power sector. Given the global importance of hydroelectric and thermoelectric power, our results represent a critical step in quantifying the impact of drought on pollutant emissions from the power sector - and thus on mitigation targets - in other regions of the world.

Text
Herrera-Estrada_2018_Environ._Res._Lett._13_124032 - Version of Record
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.
Download (1MB)

More information

e-pub ahead of print date: 21 December 2018
Keywords: climate change mitigation, climate impacts, climate variability, drought, emissi, North America, water-energy nexus

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 428021
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/428021
ISSN: 1748-9318
PURE UUID: eb417625-b359-4c78-a312-21f415bbff6f
ORCID for Justin Sheffield: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-2400-0630

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 07 Feb 2019 17:30
Last modified: 30 Jan 2020 01:41

Export record

Altmetrics

Download statistics

Downloads from ePrints over the past year. Other digital versions may also be available to download e.g. from the publisher's website.

View more statistics

Atom RSS 1.0 RSS 2.0

Contact ePrints Soton: eprints@soton.ac.uk

ePrints Soton supports OAI 2.0 with a base URL of http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/cgi/oai2

This repository has been built using EPrints software, developed at the University of Southampton, but available to everyone to use.

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.

×