Operational water demand of future global power generation

#energy system #scenarios #electricity #global
Bar chart showing the annual water consumption for electricity generation from different energy sources. The electricity generation is shown for the year 2015 as well as for the year 2040, taking into account four different energy scenarios
Water consumption for electricity generation for different global energy scenarios (in km3 per year, without hydropower) © Terrapon-Pfaff et al. 2020 https://doi.org/10.3390/w12092482

Method for determining the future direct water demand of power generation on a global and regional level. The approach enables conclusions about the impact that different decarbonisation strategies will have on future water demand.

The generation of electricity requires water. As global demand for electricity is expected to increase significantly in the coming decades, the demand for water in the power sector is also expected to increase. However, because of the global energy transition, the future structure of the power supply – and with it the future water demand for power generation – is subject to a high degree of uncertainty, given that the amount of water required for electricity generation varies greatly depending on both the generation technology and the cooling system. The developed method enables the quantification of the impact of decarbonisation strategies on direct water demand for electricity generation at global and regional levels.

For this purpose, water demand scenarios for the power sector are developed based on selected global energy scenario studies and the impacts up to 2040 are systematically analysed. The results show that different decarbonisation strategies can lead to a significant variation in water demand. In this context, a reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions does not necessarily lead to a reduction in water demand. Accordingly, the results underline the need to consider not only GHG emission reductions, but also aspects such as water demand in energy system planning in order to make the energy transition sustainable.

Water resource: Process water, Surface water
Type of product:
  • Management concepts & assessments
  • Modelling & software tools
Application sector: Industry, Water resource management
Funding measure: GRoW
Project: WANDEL

Contact and partners

Logo Wuppertal Institut für Klima, Umwelt, Energie gGmbH
  • Wuppertal Institut für Klima, Umwelt, Energie gGmbH,
  • Döppersberg 19,
  • 42103 Wuppertal
Dr. Julia Terrapon-Pfaff
  • julia.terrapon-pfaff@wupperinst.org

Wuppertal Institut für Klima, Umwelt, Energie gGmbH,

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