Climatic Change

, Volume 109, Supplement 1, pp 151–169

Climate change impacts on two high-elevation hydropower systems in California


DOI: 10.1007/s10584-011-0301-8

Cite this article as:
Vicuña, S., Dracup, J.A. & Dale, L. Climatic Change (2011) 109(Suppl 1): 151. doi:10.1007/s10584-011-0301-8


This paper describes research to estimate the effects of climate change on two high-elevation hydropower systems in California: the Upper American River Project, operated by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, and the Big Creek system, operated by Southern California Edison. The study builds on a previous model of the Upper American River Project, which is here modified and extended for use to simulate two hydropower systems under various conditions. Future operations of the two high-elevation systems are simulated using climate change scenarios provided for the Second California Assessment. These scenarios suggest reduced precipitation and reduced runoff for both systems, and a shift toward runoff earlier in the year. The change in the hydrograph is somewhat greater for the Upper American River Project system, because its basins lie at a lower elevation. Reduced runoff directly reduces energy generation and revenues from both systems. Because the Upper American River Project system is projected to have greater spills with warmer climate conditions, it also has greater reduction in energy generation and revenues. Both systems continue to meet peak historical power demands in summer under most climate projections. However, if the number of heat waves increases in the late summer (September), reservoir operating strategies may need to be modified.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sebastian Vicuña
    • 1
  • John A. Dracup
    • 2
  • Larry Dale
    • 3
  1. 1.Centro Interdisciplinario de Cambio GlobalPontificia Universidad Catolica de ChileSantiagoChile
  2. 2.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA
  3. 3.Energy and Technologies DivisionLawrence Berkeley National LaboratoryBerkeleyUSA

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