Studies show electricity generation is at risk from water shortages

CNA Corporation, a non-profit research and analysis organization based in Arlington, Virginia, has published two studies which show that there will not be enough water to supply world population and keep the current energy and power solutions going if we continue doing what we are doing today.

The reports indicate that, in most countries, electricity production, including coal, natural gas, and nuclear, is the biggest consumer of water. Coal fired generation with carbon capture and storage consumes even more water than conventional coal fired generating stations. By 2020, many areas of the world will no longer have access to clean drinking water and about 30-40% of the world will have water scarcity. One of the reports’ authors is quoted as stating that “It’s a huge problem that the electricity sector do not even realize how much water they actually consume”.

The researchers focussed on specific utilities and energy suppliers in France, the United States, China and India, identifying current energy needs and making projections to 2040. All four case studies project that it will be impossible to continue to produce electricity in the current way and meet overall water demand by 2040.

The reports make recommendations in six general areas:

  • Promote energy efficiency and demand-side management.
  • Deploy renewable energy technologies that do not require cooling.
  • Avoid building new freshwater-cooled thermoelectric power plants in water-stressed regions.
  • Improve monitoring, data collection, and analysis for policy, planning, and permitting.
  • Increase research and development support for advanced power-sector technologies that reduce water use and provide other co-benefits.

A press release from one of the report’s authors, Benjamin Sovacool, a Professor at Aarhus Uuniversity, Denmark, and Associate Professor at Vermont Law School, USA, is at http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-07/au-wws072914.php. Links to the two reports are at http://www.cna.org/news/releases/2014-07-28.

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