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Journal Paper Accepted at Applied Energy Journal: Quantitative engineering systems modeling and analysis of the energy-water nexus

The LIINES is happy to announce that Applied Energy Journal has accepted our recent paper entitled:  “Quantitative engineering systems modeling and analysis of the energy–water nexus” for publication.  The paper is authored by William N. Lubega and Prof. Amro M. Farid.  

Electric power is required to extract, condition, convey, dispose of and recycle water for human use. At the same time, the bulk of global electricity generation capacity uses water as a heat sink or prime mover. This energy-water nexus is of growing importance due to increased demand for water and electricity; distortion of the temporal and spatial availability of fresh water due to climate change; as well as various drivers of more energy-intense water supply for example increased wastewater treatment requirements, and more water-intense electricity generation for example emissions control technologies at power plants.


There are several notable published studies on this nexus. At a technology level, there have been attempts to optimize coupling points between the electricity and water systems to reduce the water-intensity of technologies in the former and the energy-intensity of technologies in the latter. Empirical determinations of the electricity-intensity of water technologies and the water-intensity of electricity technologies have been reported and analyzed. Various models that enable the exploration of the water resource implications of defined electricity sector development pathways and thus support the analysis of various water and electricity policies have also been developed. To our knowledge however, a transparent physics-based approach that interfaces a model of the electricity system to models of the municipal water and wastewater systems enabling an input-output analysis of these three systems in unison has not been presented. Such a modeling approach would support integrated control applications as well as integrated planning without a priori specification of development pathways, for example through optimization.

A paper recently published by the LIINES in Applied Energy titled Quantitative engineering systems modeling and analysis of the energy–water nexus presents such a systems-of-system model. In this work, bond graphs are used to develop models that characterize the salient transmissions of matter and energy in and between the electricity, water and wastewater systems as identified in the reference architecture. Bond graphs, which are graphical representations of physical dynamic systems, were chosen as the modeling tool as they facilitate the inter-energy-domain modeling necessitated by the heterogeneous nature of the energy-water nexus. Furthermore they clearly identify causality and readily allow for model enhancement as required by applications. The developed models, when combined, make it possible to relate a region’s energy and municipal water consumption to the required water withdrawals in an input-output model.  This paper builds on another LIINES publication entitled “A Reference Architecture for the Energy-Water Nexus” found in the IEEE Systems Journal.



This research is of particular significance to countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council, all of which have limited fresh water resources and thus depend on energy-expensive desalination to meet a large portion of their water needs. This dependence enhances the degree of coupling between the electricity and water systems and thus the associated vulnerability concerns. Furthermore, motivated by the cogeneration of electric power and desalinated water, combined electricity and water authorities have been established in the region. The multi-energy domain model developed in this work is therefore of immediate relevance to the planning and control efforts of these existing institutions.


About the Author:

William N. Lubega conducted this research in collaboration with his Master’s thesis advisor Prof. Amro M. Farid in LIINES at the Masdar Institute of Science & Technology Engineering Systems & Management Department.  William is now a doctoral research assistant at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Civil & Environmental Engineering department as part of the Energy-Water-Environment Sustainability Track.  There, he continues his energy-water nexus research in the Stillwell Research Group.

A full reference list of energy-water nexus research at LIINES can be found on the LIINES publication page: http://amfarid.scripts.mit.edu


LIINES Website: http://amfarid.scripts.mit.edu

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  1. Thank you for reminding me. For the first image, Photo Credit: R. Pate, M. Hightower, C. Cameron, and W. Einfeld, “Overview of Energy-Water Interdependencies and the Emerging Energy Demands on Water Resources,” Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 2007.

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