Journal article
Water Demand Scenarios for Electricity Generation at the Global and Regional Levels

Publication Details
Terrapon-Pfaff, J.; Ortiz, W.; Viebahn, P.; Kynast, E.; Flörke, M.
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Electricity generation requires water. With the global demand for electricity expected to increase significantly in the coming decades, the water demand in the power sector is also expected to rise. However, due to the ongoing global energy transition, the future structure of the power supply—and hence future water demand for power generation—is subject to high levels of uncertainty, because the volume of water required for electricity generation varies significantly depending on both the generation technology and the cooling system. This study shows the implications of ambitious decarbonization strategies for the direct water demand for electricity generation. To this end, water demand scenarios for the electricity sector are developed based on selected global energy scenario studies to systematically analyze the impact up to 2040. The results show that different decarbonization strategies for the electricity sector can lead to a huge variation in water needs. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) does not necessarily lead to a reduction in water demand. These findings emphasize the need to take into account not only GHG emission reductions, but also such aspects as water requirements of future energy systems, both at the regional and global levels, in order to achieve a sustainable energy transition.

Last updated on 2021-04-05 at 16:34