Climate change could have dire effects on hydropower systems, especially in southwest China, where hydropower dominates the regional power system. This study examines two large cascade hydropower systems in Yunnan province in southwest China for 10 climate change projections made with 5 global climate models (GCMs) and 2 representative concentration pathways (RCPs) under Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5). First, a back propagation neural network rain-runoff model is built for each hydropower station to estimate inflows with climate change. Then, a progressive optimality algorithm maximizes hydropower generation for each projection. The results show generation increasing in each GCM projection, but increasing more in GCMs under scenario RCP8.5. However, yearly generation fluctuates more: generation decreases dramatically with potential for electricity shortages in dry years and more electricity as well as spill during wet years. Average annual spill, average annual inflow and average storage have similar trends. The analysis indicates that a planned large dam on the upper Jinsha River would increase seasonal regulation ability, increase hydropower generation, and decrease spill. Increased turbine capacity increases generation slightly and decreases spill for the Lancang River. Results from this study demonstrate effects of climate change on hydropower systems and identify which watersheds might be more vulnerable, along with some actions that could help adapt to climate change.
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