Robust solutions for the food-water-energy nexus

Advanced Systems Analysis (ASA) Program researchers model interconnected food, water, and energy systems and advance methods of stochastic optimization. This can help to design management strategies that are robust with respect to inherent uncertainties and risks.

© Suriyaphoto | Dreamstime

© Suriyaphoto | Dreamstime

Food and energy sectors often compete for natural resources, such as water and land. Weather conditions, water availability, and market volatility are a few examples of important uncertainties, which should be taken into account when strategic decisions regarding resource allocation between sectors and households are made. Regional management aims to achieve economic development that is sustainable in terms of supplying enough food, water, and energy to region’s inhabitants. In 2015, ASA researchers developed stochastic optimization methods and models to derive robust solutions from food-water-energy nexus models.

ASA researchers provided methodological support for implementing a stochastic version of the IIASA Global Biosphere Management Model (GLOBIOM), hosted and developed by the Ecosystems Services and Management Program. It produces robust strategic decisions for optimal planning of the global land use systems (agriculture, forestry, bio-fuel production), given the constraints on water and other resources, and aims to ensure that food and energy security targets are achieved by all countries [1]. By applying this modeling framework to Ukraine, IIASA was able to make policy recommendations for the Ukrainian government.

A spatially detailed regional model of optimal allocation of land and water for energy and food production was developed by [2]. The model allows evaluation of the trade-offs between coal and crop production and has now been applied to Shanxi region, China, where water scarcity and land deterioration as a result of coal mining are severe [3].


[1] Ermolieva TY, Ermoliev YM, Havlik P, Mosnier A, Leclere D, Kraxner F, Khabarov N & Obersteiner M (2015). Systems analysis of robust strategic decisions to plan secure food, energy, and water provision based on the stochastic GLOBIOM model. Cybernetics and Systems Analysis 51(1):125-133.

[2] Xu X, Gao J, Cao G-Y, Ermoliev YM, Ermolieva T, Kryazhimskii AV & Rovenskaya E (2015). Systems analysis of coal production and energy-water-food security in China. Cybernetics and Systems Analysis 51(3):370-377.

[3] Xu X, Gao J, Cao G-Y, Ermoliev Y, Ermolieva T, Kryazhimskiy AV & Rovenskaya E (2015). Modeling water-energy-food nexus for planning energy and agriculture developments: case study of coal mining industry in Shanxi province, China. IIASA Interim Report IR-15-020.


Ecosystems Services and Management Program (ESM), IIASA

China University of Mining and Technology, China 

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Last edited: 15 March 2016


Yurii Yermoliev

Institute Scholar

Advanced Systems Analysis

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