Center on Financial Risk in Environmental Systems (CoFiRES)

Center on Financial Risk in Environmental Systems: Columbia Basin

Columbia Basin (Willamette River)

Leveraging Natural Resource Concentration and Conveyance in the Energy Water Food Nexus to Increase Security and Resilience

This project focuses on identification of key sensitivities of the Willamette River Basin’s food, water and energy sectors to uncertainty in natural, engineered and social domains, and exploration of strategies for improving future outcomes.

Financial losses from wind power curtailment which occurs during very wet years when hydropower “oversupply” challenges the grid.

Financial losses from wind power curtailment which occurs during very wet years when hydropower “oversupply” challenges the grid.

This project investigates the food energy water nexus in the Willamette River Basin (WRB). Within the WRB, we will identify a) the attributes of the natural, engineered, and social domains that exert the greatest impact on outcomes related to food, water, and energy, b) the most important connections and feedbacks among those domains, and c) the factors that influence resilience, thresholds, and criticalities. The project will make use Envision, a framework for integrating hydrological, ecological, and economic models to explore alternative futures and evaluate operational, technological, and regulatory strategies that could extend the availability of food, energy, and water in the region. A key focus for the Center on Financial Risk in Environmental Systems will be adding a regional power systems representation into the existing Envision framework, as well as expanding its capabilities for evaluating the larger financial and economic consequences of climate change, population growth, and economic development on water availability, energy generation, and food production in the basin on longer time scales. In addition to managing the financial risks of drought, and the related scarcity of water and power, this project will also focus on managing very wet periods in which hydropower becomes so plentiful that the grid is challenged by “oversupply” issues that can result in significant financial losses and wasted energy. During high snowpack/streamflow periods, hydropower dams may be required to run hydropower facilities at full capacity for long periods (to spilling water over the dam when reservoirs are full). If this coincides with high levels of renewable energy production (primarily wind power in the Pacific Northwest), the grid can become overloaded. Renewable generators can then be forced to curtail their production, giving rise to financial losses, creating financial risks that impede renewable energy investment.

Oregon State University: Dr. Chad Higgins (Lead PI), Dr. David Rupp

University of Nevada, Reno: Dr. Anne Nolin, Dr. Stephen Drake

University of Oregon: Dr. Adell Amos

University of California, Davis: Dr. Majdi Abou Najm

Free University of Berlin: Dr. Nikki Vercauteren

Related Publications:
Su, Y., Kern, J. D. and G. W. Characklis (2017). “The Impact of Wind Growth and Hydrological Uncertainty on Financial Losses from Oversupply Events in Hydropower-dominated Systems, Applied Energy, 194, pp. 172-183, doi:10.1016/j.apenergy.2017.02.067.

Funding Support:
National Science Foundation, Innovations at the Nexus of Food, Energy, Water Systems (INFEWS) program, award no. EAR-1740082

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