IASS: Solar and wind can reduce global water scarcity

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Solar PV systems and wind turbines over their whole life cycle consume about 0.1?–?14% and withdraw about 2?–?15% of the water used by coal or nuclear plants to generate 1 MWh, IASS says in its policy brief published earlier this week.

The researchers point out that energy decision-makers tend to mistakenly consider water an abundant resource that they do not need to worry about in planning. Meanwhile, according to UNESCO, by 2050, more than 40% of the global population is expected to live in areas of severe water stress.

IASS’ policy brief outlines the three major steps that would help to accelerate water-resilient electricity generation around the world. It suggests increasing the share of wind and solar PV power in water-scarce regions, not only because they are the least water-intensive electricity technologies, but also because they help to reduce climate-induced water risks due to their very low greenhouse gas emissions.

Another important step is to incorporate water scarcity into energy decision-making. IASS suggests charging the energy sector for its water use in a way that better reflects actual water costs and scarcities.

Finally, the energy sector has to become more transparent regarding its water use. “The limited data on actual water requirements in the energy sector in different parts of the world is a fundamental deficiency for informed decision-making,” the brief says.