IRENA: Renewables can help China reduce water use in power sector

Scaling up renewable energy and introducing improved plant cooling technologies in China’s power sector will reduce water-intensity by up to 42% and emissions-intensity by up to 37% in 2030, according to a new joint brief by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and China Water Risk.

The analysts underline that 45% of China’s power generation facilities rely on fresh water and are located in areas of high water stress. The power sector currently accounts for nearly 12% of total national water withdrawals. Considering that domestic electricity demand in China is expected to rise 65% by 2030, the country needs less water-intensive energy solutions.

“The global issues of water, energy and climate are completely interconnected,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. “The only effective, immediately available solution to meet the rising demand for energy while limiting environmental impacts is to scale up renewable energy.”

Due to their water saving potential, photovoltaic (PV) and wind electricity technologies can help to reduce water stress not only in China. A report by the German Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) published last week demonstrates that 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. The researchers conclude that increasing a share of PV and wind power in water-scarce regions can reduce global water scarcity.

As part of its carbon-curbing pledge China is planning to reach 20% renewable share in the power mix by 2030. However, IRENA’s REmap analysis on China, released in late 2014, concludes that the country has both technical and economic potential to scale up renewable energy up to 26%. Another report published on Monday by the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) concludes that China’s CO2 emissions are likely to peak in 2025 the latest.