EU Science Hub

Exploiting modelling to better address issues related to the water-energy nexus

Graphic of interconnected black pipes on a turqouise background
Oct 10 2016

On 28-29 September 2016, the US Department of Energy and the JRC, in cooperation with the Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, organised a workshop dedicated to understanding the water-energy nexus, in particular integrated water and power system modelling. Over 70 scientific experts, government officials and stakeholders, representatives of international organisations and industry took part.

The two-day event was organised at the JRC's site in Ispra, Italy. It focused on sharing scenarios, case studies, and modelling activities that featured energy-water tradeoffs in the power system. The participants also identified opportunities to use innovative power-water linkages in models to inform policy and other decision-making, and also discussed future priorities for modelling cooperation.

Based on the input received from workshop participants, the European Commission and the US Department of Energy will produce an overview of existing and future modelling activities and tools relevant to water-energy nexus.

Challenges for power and water modeling

Twenty-first century electricity and water infrastructure developments bring a number of challenges for power and water modeling that were identified in the workshop. For example, the emergence of flexibility as a desired attribute in the electricity sector has implications for design and operations of both electricity and water infrastructure, and models can help to inform innovative thinking on both infrastructure design and operations levels, including interface with markets. Pursuing these modelling applications will require combining models traditionally used for electricity with those used for water, including accounting for buffer systems (i.e. energy storage and water storage) and identifying modeling questions that explore the potential for flexible energy consumption by water infrastructure. As these modeling advances are pursued, an additional challenge will be to maintain connection with diverse stakeholders.

It was stressed in the workshop that benchmarking, validation, and model intercomparisons are needed for shared learning across multiple models. A new workshop will be jointly organised in approximately 18 months' time to report on the progress in addressing these key challenges and needs.

Why is the water-energy nexus important?

Water is needed for energy, and energy is required for water. The energy-water nexus brings both risks and opportunities to power systems in light of growing impacts of climate change on the water resources that hydropower and thermoelectric generation rely upon; increasing penetration of variable renewables and associated flexibility requirements; changes in electricity market structure and associated opportunities; and increases in water demand in some regions.

The water-energy nexus topic has been identified as a priority topic under the EU-US Energy Council. The recently signed collaboration arrangement between the JRC and the US Department of Energy provides the legal frame for direct scientific cooperation in the field.

Group photo of the workshop participants
Over 70 persons participated in the workshop, including about one third coming from the US and international organisations.

©EU, 2016