Energy Supply Readiness Across Climate Change and Energy Demand Scenarios in the Columbia River Basin; The Federal Columbia River Power System and the Social Construction of Technology: Two Case Studies

Ross, Kenneth, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
Ku, Tsai-Hsuan, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Quinn, Julianne, EN-Eng Sys and Environment, University of Virginia
Elliott, Travis, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

The Columbia River hydropower system is the country’s largest renewable energy system. It is responsible for providing much of the electricity in the Pacific Northwest. The technical portion of this thesis focuses on assessing energy demand across different generation sources, under different climate and human development scenarios. Nine scenarios were selected from three climate projections and three socioeconomic development tracks. Climate projections used were taken from CMIP5 Representative Concentration Pathways, to represent hard curbing of carbon emissions, moderate global effort in accordance with the Paris Agreement, and unchanged emissions, respectively. The Shared Socioeconomic Pathways determine investment and demand for different types of energy, with the projections indicating considerable investment in sustainability, a middle-of-the-road approach, and continued reliance on fossil fuels. The California and West Coast Power System Model (CAPOW), a model developed by prior research was used in combination with these scenarios to predict demand and price for hydroelectric, solar, wind, and fossil fuel energy through the years 2050-2079 in the West Coast.
The STS Research Paper explores the historic development of the system through the social construction of technology and the ethical framework of the political, social, and cultural roots of engineering ethics. It uses two case studies, the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam and the removal of the Elwha Dam, to examine the interplay between relevant social groups, including government agencies, private enterprise, the residents of Washington, and Native American tribes. Between the two cases, the federal government prioritized the needs of the other stakeholders based on different political atmospheres in the 1930s and 1970s onward. The case of the Grand Coulee Dam explains how during the Great Depression, the government prioritized economic development over the environment and Native American tribes. The case of the Elwha Dam illustrates a reversal, with the government being motivated by civil rights and environmentalism to remove the dam to restore wild fish populations upon which the livelihoods of the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe depended.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Social Construction of Technology, Engineering ethics, Energy demand scenarios, energy supply, climate change

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Systems Engineering
Technical Advisor: Julianne Quinn
STS Advisor: Travis Elliott, Tsai-Hsuan Ku
Technical Team Members: Cameron Bailey, Hong Liang, Samantha Garcia

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