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Journal Paper Accepted: Opportunities for energy-water nexus management in the Middle East and North Africa

by Brian Keare

We are happy to announce that our paper “Opportunities for Energy-Water Nexus management in the Middle East and North Africa”, has been accepted for publication by the academic journal Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene. This study was the result of collaboration between William N. Lubega (Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) and Prof. Amro M. Farid and William W. Hickman (Dartmouth).

Electric power is required to produce, treat, distribute, and recycle water while water is required to generate and consume electricity. Naturally, this energy-water nexus is most evident in multi-utilities that provide electricity and water but still exists when the nexus has distinct organizations as owners and operators. Therefore, the sustainability question that arises from energy-water trade-offs and synergies is very much tied to the potential for economies of scope.


Furthermore, in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, multi-utilities are not only common, but also the nexus is particularly exacerbated by the high energy intensity of the water supply due to limited fresh water resources. Several accelerating trends are increasingly stressing the existing supply systems of MENA countries: Increased demand due to population and economic growth, a more extreme and unpredictable climate mostly affecting water supply and power demand, and multiple drivers for more electricity-intensive water and more water-intensive electricity including aging infrastructure and certain regulations and standards. This paper identifies and motivates several opportunities for enhanced integrated operations management and planning in the energy-water nexus in multi-utilities in the MENA.

From the discussion of the coupling points between the energy and water systems and operations management strategies to optimize these coupling points, several policy implementations can be drawn. First, the existing approaches to dispatch of the individual products of power and water could be replaced by integrated energy-water dispatch. Second, existing fixed power and water purchase agreements can be replaced with a seamlessly integrated energy-water dispatch. As in liberalized power systems, multiple time horizon markets with their respective clearing mechanisms would be required so as to provide dynamic incentives for greater cost and resource efficiency.  Fourth, the energy-water nexus also presents coupling points that engage the demand side of both power and water. Carefully designed demand-side management schemes, perhaps in the form of public-private partnerships, could present a vehicle for coordinating these coupling points in a cost-effective fashion.

The report also leads to several central policy implications. First, if water consumption and withdrawal of power generation were monetized, the investment case for renewable energy would inevitably be a stronger one. Next, while reverse osmosis desalination plants limit the energy-intensity of water production, from an integrated systems perspective, multi-stage flash plants provide a coproduction functionality that may be preferred over individual reverse osmosis and power generation facilities. Third, while many water utilities across the region have made extensive efforts towards reducing water leakages, such efforts could be strengthened by considering the embedded energy and the associated economic and environmental cost of these leakages. Lastly, there exists both a necessity and opportunity to reduce the energy footprint of water supply in MENA countries through increased water recycling. Utilizing a decentralized treatment system providing multiple water qualities and treatment levels will allow more opportunities for recycled water use in industry, agriculture, and other areas.

In all, the integrated energy-water nexus planning models and optimization programs presented and cited in this work provide deeper perspectives than their single product alternatives found in the existing literature. Their application in the policy domain has a high potential for future work and extension in the MENA region. Furthermore, these techniques have the potential for use in regions of similar climate (e.g. South-West United States & Australia) or other electricity-water utilities around the globe.

In depth materials on LIINES energy-water nexus research can be found on the LIINES websitte.


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Journal Paper Accepted: Symmetrica: Test Case for Tansportation Electrification Research

by Thomas van der Wardt

The LIINES is happy to announce that our recent paper entitled: “Symmetrica: Test Case for Tansportation Electrification Research” has been published in the journal Infrastructure Complexity. Written by Prof. Amro M. Farid, this paper presents a test case for electric vehicle integration studies.

Electrified transportation has emerged in recent years as a means to reduce CO2 emissions and support energy efficiency. For this trend to succeed in the long term, electric vehicles must be integrated into the infrastructure systems that support them. Electric vehicles couple two such large systems; the transportation system and the electric power system into a nexus.

Electric vehicle integration, much like solar PV and wind integration years ago, has been fairly confined to small fleets of tens of vehicles. Such small pilot projects do not present a significant technical challenge. Their large scale adoption, however, must be carefully studied to avoid degrading overall infrastructure performance. Transportation electrification test cases serve to study infrastructure behavior well before reaching a full deployment of electric vehicles. Such a test case would resemble those often used in power systems engineering to serve methodological development in the design, planning, and operation of such systems.

The arguments for a test case to study the transportation electricity nexus are five-fold. First, a standardized test case is required to test, and compare analytical methods. In power systems, test cases served an essential role in the maturation of power flow analysis, stability studies, and contingency analysis. The transportation-electricity nexus will ultimately also require similar assessments. Secondly, using real data from critical infrastructure may be imprudent. For example, real data may reveal weak points in a power system which may be exploited by unauthorized personnel. Thirdly, a test case serves to support fundamental understanding by broadening intuition development. For the transportation-electricity nexus, understanding the effect of increasingly interdependent dynamics, will result in new requirements for optimization and control for its planning and operation. Naturally, this new found intuition serves the fourth reason of methodological development. A test case serves facilitates the design, planning, and operation of the system before it is built. Unexpected behaviors may be identified in an early stage and can subsequently be avoided or mitigated. Finally, the privacy of personal data is protected through using a test case. Transportation simulation requires microscopic data (tracking each vehicle through a full day’s events), which raises grave privacy and ethical concerns if real data is used.

To address these needs, the proposed test case includes three structural descriptions: a transportation system topology, an electric power topology, and a charging system topology. Additional data includes transportation demand and charging demand. The test case consists of a number of desirable characteristics, including completeness, functional heterogeneity, moderate size, regular topology, regular demand data, realism, and objectivity. The figure below shows the three topologies; a fully detailed description test casenamed ‘Symmetrica’ is available in the paper.


The transportation electrification test case can potentially be used for research within planning and operation management applications. A recent study (Al Junaibi et al. 2013) showed that the planning of the charging system as the couple of two infrastructure systems highly impacts the overall performance of the transportation electrification nexus. Matching the spatial layout of charging infrastructure to the demand for electrified transportation is key a infrastructure developent challenge. Furthermore, investment costs to upgrade power lines and transformers must be matched to the expected adoption of electric vehicles, providing an interesting starting point for return-on-investment and operations research methods. Using operation management applications such as charging station queue management or vehicle-2-grid stabilization could optimize the integration of electric vehicles within the nexus. Opportunities such as these present rich applications areas which have the potential to significant reduce the extra expenditure in infrastructure investments.

In depth materials on LIINES electrified transportation systems research can be found on the LIINES websitte.


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