Designing diversified renewable energy systems to balance multisector performance

Jose M. Gonzalez, James E. Tomlinson, Eduardo A. Martínez ceseña, Mohammed Basheer, Emmanuel Obuobie, Philip T. Padi, Salifu Addo, Rasheed Baisie, Mikiyas Etichia, Anthony Hurford, Andrea Bottacin-Busolin, John Matthews, James Dalton, D. Mark Smith, Justin Sheffield, Mathaios Panteli, Julien J. Harou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Renewable energy system development and improved operation can mitigate climate change. In many regions, hydropower is called to counterbalance the temporal variability of intermittent renewables like solar and wind. However, using hydropower to integrate these renewables can affect aquatic ecosystems and increase cross-sectoral water conflicts. We develop and apply an artificial intelligence-assisted multisector design framework in Ghana, which shows how hydropower’s flexibility alone could enable expanding intermittent renewables by 38% but would increase sub-daily Volta River flow variability by up to 22 times compared to historical baseload hydropower operations. This would damage river ecosystems and reduce agricultural sector revenues by US$169 million per year. A diversified investment strategy identified using the proposed framework, including intermittent renewables, bioenergy, transmission lines and strategic hydropower re-operation could reduce sub-daily flow variability and enhance agricultural performance while meeting future national energy service goals and reducing CO2 emissions. The tool supports national climate planning instruments such as nationally determined contributions (NDCs) by steering towards diversified and efficient power systems and highlighting their sectoral and emission trade-offs and synergies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)415-427
Number of pages13
JournalNature Sustainability
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jan 2023


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