Optimal Electricity Planning and Dispatching Incorporating Health Impacts

Event Type: 
Valerie Thomas, Professor, Georgia Institute of Technology
Thursday, February 9, 2017 - 3:00pm to 4:00pm
1005 EECS
Event Sponsor: 
UMOR Power Seminar & MPEL Seminar

About the Event

Integrating accurate air quality modeling with decision making is hampered by complex atmospheric physics and chemistry and its coupling with atmospheric transport. Existing approaches to model the physics and chemistry accurately lead to significant computational burdens in computing the response of atmospheric concentrations to changes in emissions profiles. By integrating a reduced form of a fully coupled atmospheric model within a unit commitment optimization model, we allow, for the first time to our knowledge, a fully dynamical approach toward electricity planning that accurately and rapidly minimizes both cost and health impacts. The reduced-form model captures the response of spatially resolved air pollutant concentrations to changes in electricity-generating plant emissions on an hourly basis with accuracy comparable to a comprehensive air quality model. The integrated model allows for the inclusion of human health impacts into cost-based decisions for power plant operation. We use the new capability in a case study of the state of Georgia over the years of 2004– 2011, and show that a shift in utilization among existing power plants during selected hourly periods could have provided a health cost savings of $175.9 million dollars for an additional electricity generation cost of $83.6 million in 2007 US dollars (USD2007). The case study illustrates how air pollutant health impacts can be cost-effectively minimized by intelligently modulating power plant operations over multi-hour periods, without implementing additional emissions control technologies.


Valerie Thomas is the Anderson Interface Professor of Natural Systems in the School of Industrial and Systems Engineering at Georgia Tech, with a joint appointment in the School of Public Policy. She has a PhD in Theoretical Physics from Cornell University and a B.A. In Physics from Swarthmore College. She has worked in the Department of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University, and at Princeton University in the Center for Energy and Environmental Studies and at the Princeton Environmental Institute. Immediately prior to coming to Georgia Tech she spent a year as the American Physical Society’s Congressional Science Fellow. She has served as a member of the US EPA Science Advisory Board, and currently serves on the USDA/DOE Biomass R&D Advisory Committee. She is a Fellow of APS and AAAS.