Sustainable energy systems : the environmental footprints of electricity generation systems : mechanisms for managing electricity, water resources and air quality



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This thesis examines the response of air pollutant emissions, water use and carbon emissions from electric power supply systems (electrical grids) to market forces and natural and human disruptions. Specifically, the response of electrical grid operation decisions to emissions pricing and other factors, such as drought restrictions, is examined. The grid of the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is used as a source of data, and as a spatial and temporal test-bed. Price signals for NOx emissions have the potential to reduce NOx emissions from the ERCOT grid by up to 50%. In addition to lowering NOx, there are co-benefits to introducing NOx prices, including reductions in the emissions of SOx (24.9% to 70.9%), Hg (16.8% to 81.3%) and CO2 (8.7% to 21.1%). Water consumption was also decreased by 4.3% to 8.2%. The costs of redispatching electricity generation to reduce NOx emissions are, in many scenarios, comparable to conventional control costs. Higher CO2 prices produce many of the same changes in electricity generation as increases in NOx prices, but the simultaneous application of NOx and CO2 pricing produces complex effects. Under stress, such as drought induced water scarcity, dispatching decisions have the potential to increase water availability in regions in which drought is a concern. This dispatching had relatively small impacts on total water consumption summed over all regions of the ERCOT grid. However, the dispatching scenarios resulted in net increases in NOx, SOx, and CO2 emissions rates summed over all regions of the grid, particularly in regions that were absorbing the electricity generation that was exported out of the drought impacted regions. The costs of electricity dispatching, per volume of water consumption reduced in the drought impacted region, was generally greater than the cost of implementing dry cooling in the same facilities at high electricity demand levels, but comparable to dry cooling at low to moderate demand levels.
Finally, while changes in total emissions can be used as a surrogate for air quality impacts, actual changes in air pollutant concentrations, such as ozone, exhibit complex spatial and temporal patterns in response to redispatching, including the creation of hot spots of elevated concentrations.