NewEnergyNews: TODAY’S STUDY: SAVING WATER CAN CUT GREENHOUSE GASES

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    Wednesday, August 13, 2014

    TODAY’S STUDY: SAVING WATER CAN CUT GREENHOUSE GASES

    Capturing Synergies Between Water Conservation and Carbon Dioxide Emissions in the Power Sector

    Paul Faeth and Benjamin K. Sovacool, July 2014 (CAN Corp)

    Abstract

    In order to gain a more thorough understanding of potential conflicts and synergies between power generation and water use, we developed a mixed-integer linear programming model of the power sector that captures the key relationships with water. We used the model to develop a series of scenarios for each of four case studies—the North Grid of China, India, France, and the state of Texas in the United States. We found that cost-effective options exist that can cut water use, reduce risks to the power sector, and also reduce emissions of conventional pollutants and greenhouse gases from electricity generation. This report focuses on strategies we recommend to capture those synergies.

    Executive Summary

    Electricity generation from thermoelectric power plants is inextricably linked to water resources at nearly all stages in the power production cycle, yet this critical constraint has been largely overlooked in policy and planning. While this assumption suggests that water is inexpensive and abundant, global water resources are increasingly strained by economic development, population growth, and climate change. As demand increases, competition for limited water resources among the agricultural, industrial, municipal, and electric power sectors threatens to become acute in several global regions.

    Modeling the Electricity-Water Nexus

    In order to gain a more thorough understanding of potential conflicts and synergies between power generation and water use, we developed a mixed-integer linear programming model of the power sector that captures the key relationships with water. We used the model to develop a series of scenarios for each of four case studies—the North Grid of China, India, France, and the state of Texas in the United States. We chose these cases because water is posing challenges to power generation in each of them.

    We developed a baseline projection for each case study, and then modeled a number of scenarios, including limits on water availability, reduced power demand from end-use energy efficiency, expansion of renewable energy, and carbon caps, among others.

    Findings and Strategies to Address Water Challenges and Mitigate CO2 Emissions

    We found that cost-effective options exist that can cut water used in electricity generation and also reduce emissions of conventional pollutants and carbon dioxide. From the case study analysis, we developed a set of recommended strategies, presented in detail in this report:

    • 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 companion report, A Clash of Competing Necessities: Water Adequacy and Electric Reliability in China, India, France, and Texas,describes the four case studies and the analysis that supports the recommendations above. Documentation of the model is provided in its appendix.

    Next Steps

    The intent of the research was to better appreciate the issues at play and put forward a set of strategies to reduce the dependence on water of the power sector, thereby enhancing its reliability as well as the water- and pollutant-related co-benefits that could be derived.

    It is critically important that policymakers, government officials, and other decision makers and reform advocates are aware of the significant reliability risks increasingly posed by water resource constraints. A key takeaway from the work reported here is that tools that enable the full consideration of water-related conflicts and synergies need to be developed and applied in order to avoid those future risks…

    Conclusion

    Electricity generation from thermoelectric power plants is inextricably linked to water resources at nearly all stages in the power production cycle, yet this critical constraint has been largely overlooked in policy and planning.

    While this omission suggests that water is inexpensive and abundant, global water resources are increasingly strained by economic development, population growth, and climate change.44 As demand increases, competition for limited water resources among the agricultural, industrial, municipal, and electric power sectors threatens to become acute in several global regions. It is critically important that policymakers, government officials, and other decisionmakers and reform advocates are aware of the significant reliability risks increasingly posed by water resource constraints.

    6

    We find though, that these risks can be managed in ways that are cost-effective and provide additional co-benefits, including improvements in air quality and reductions in greenhouse gases. Key approaches to do this include end-use energy efficiency; renewable energy that does not require cooling water, particularly wind; and a move away from coal to natural gas. Not all power production options provide these synergies. Nuclear power has air quality and climate mitigation benefits, but is very thirsty. Coal with carbon capture and sequestration requires considerably more water than does conventional coal.

    The intent of the exercise we reported here was to better understand the issues at play and develop strategies that could alleviate the challenges the power sector is likely to face as water resource availability becomes increasingly constrained.

    A key takeaway from this work is that tools that enable the full consideration of water-related conflicts and synergies—such as the CNA Electricity-Water Nexus model—need to be developed and applied in order to avoid future risks.

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