Date of Award

5-1-2016

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department

Geography and Environmental Resources

First Advisor

Secchi, Silvia

Abstract

Historically, hydropower is the largest renewable energy source. However, as it is strongly climate dependent, the current climate change is altering the generating conditions. The watershed of the Sacramento River in California houses the greatest concentration of hydropower plants in all of the United States. As such, it generates about 10 percent of all instate-produced electricity. This study examines the changes of climatic conditions within the watershed, as well as its effects on hydropower generation in this region. Changes – decrease in this case – in electricity supply can lead to an increase of electricity prices. It was found that the watershed’s significance in California’s electricity mix indeed decreased, though climate change is only one reason for this development. The other reason, next to the factual decrease in hydropower generation due to altered climatic conditions, is the large and rapid increase in solar and wind energy generating facilities. Despite the size and electricity generating capacity within the watershed, the change in climate and to it related change in hydropower generation did not have a significant effect on the state’s electricity prices.

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