Balancing cost, water, emissions, and reliability in power systems operations

Jacob Kravits, Joseph R. Kasprzyk, Kyri Baker, Ashlynn S. Stillwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Traditionally, large-scale thermoelectric power generation has been operated to reduce system operational costs. To expedite the mitigation of the harmful effects of climate change, many have proposed additional incentives for system operation (i.e. policies) that incorporate greenhouse gas emissions. However, such policies rarely consider unforeseen impacts on the volumes of water required for cooling thermoelectric plants as well as the potential effects on electricity production from water/climate-related stressors. We first create a case study representative of the thermoelectric-dominated water/energy systems in the Midwestern United States. Through this case study, our analysis investigates the tradeoffs of cost, water, emissions, and reliability in thermoelectric-dominated water/energy systems via policy analysis. Furthermore, we show how such policies respond differently to historic operational, climatological, and hydrological stressors. Specifically, we find that policies that focus on a single criterion can leave power systems vulnerable to reliability issues, operational cost increases, ecological impacts on riverine systems, and increased emissions. Therefore, consideration of many criteria (cost, water, emissions, and reliability) is necessary for creating an effective water-energy-emissions policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number014035
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2024


  • greenhouse gas emissions
  • grid operations
  • grid reliability
  • water/energy nexus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Environmental Science
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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