World Water Day 2016: Water from coal operations could sustain 1 billion people, finds study
The world’s rapidly dwindling freshwater resources could be further depleted if plans for hundreds of new coal power plants worldwide go ahead, according to Greenpeace...
HONG KONG - The world’s rapidly dwindling freshwater resources could be further depleted if plans for hundreds of new coal power plants worldwide go ahead, threatening severe drought and competition, according to a new Greenpeace International report.
The report identified the regions that are already in water deficit, where existing and proposed coal plants would speed up the depletion of water resources.
Greenpeace International commissioned the Dutch engineering consultancy Witteveen+Bos to develop a model to calculate the existing and growing fresh water withdrawal and consumption from coal-fired power plants and coal mining.
An analysis was also done on the detailed impact of coal fired power plant water demand on surface freshwater resources.
Globally, 8,359 existing coal power plant units already consume enough water to meet the basic water needs of 1 billion people, according to the findings.
A quarter of the proposed new coal plants are planned in regions already running a freshwater deficit, where water is used faster than it is naturally replenishing, which Greenpeace called red-list areas.
The top countries with proposed additional coal plant capacity in red-list areas are China (237 GW), India (52 GW) and Turkey (7 GW). Almost half of the proposed Chinese coal fleet is in red-list areas. In India and Turkey this figure is 13%.
According to the International Energy Agency, coal could account for 50% of the growth in global water consumption for power generation over the next 20 years. Greenpeace research showed that if the proposed coal plants come online, their consumption of water will increase by 90%.
The report said the findings should be a wake-up call for all resource planners as it shows the “need for urgent action to integrate water and energy planning”.
Greenpeace proposed three key policy steps which it said could turn around the coal industry’s water use:
- An immediate moratorium on coal expansion in regions with high water stress, and a transition from thirsty coal to energy that uses little or no water, like solar PV and wind.
- Replacing the planned coal plants in the red-list areas with renewable energy, such as solar PV and wind power, would avoid consumption of 1.8 billion cubic metres of water per year in China, and 1.2 billion cubic meters per year in India.
- Closing plants that have been operating for 40 years.
Harri Lammi, a Greenpeace senior global campaigner on coal, said: “If all the proposed coal plants were built the water consumed by coal power plants around the world would almost double. We now know that coal not only pollutes our skies and fuels climate change, it also
Iris Cheng, lead author of the Greenpeace International report, said: “Governments must recognise that replacing coal with renewable energy will not only help them deliver on their climate agreements, but also deliver huge water savings. It’s more urgent than ever that we move towards a 100% renewable future.”