CWR-IRENA Water Use in China’s Power Sector 2030

by China Water Risk 29 February, 2016

29 February 2016 – China Water Risk (CWR) and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) jointly release “Water Use in China’s Power Sector: Impact of Renewables and Cooling Technologies to 2030”. This brief examines the expected impact of China’s power sector on water & climate in 2030.

CWR IRENA Water Use in China Power Sector First page Chinese - w border
English 中文

The brief which builds on CWR’s earlier report “Towards A Water & Energy Secure China” states that “a power sector transformation driven by renewables would also yield benefits in areas related to water. The magnitude of these effects reaffirms the value of integrated water and energy decision-making in the power sector”.

The brief uses Chinese government policies as well as IRENA energy development scenarios to estimate how strategies in power mix and cooling technology types can help manage water stress and climate change.   The results show that renewable energy can play a key role in lowering both water use and carbon emissions.

“Accelerated renewables deployment will help alleviate pressures on scarce water resources as well as deliver reduction in carbon emissions.”

Key messages and findings include:

  • China’s power sector is exposed to and contributing to water stress. Overall, around 45% of China’s power generation faces a double whammy, being both water-reliant and located in highly water stressed regions;  
  • Renewables have the potential to reduce both water use and carbon emissions, in particular through the development of solar PV and wind turbines. Cooling technologies of thermal power plants also matter;  
  • Dual savings in water and carbon can be achieved: by 2030, water use intensity of power generation can be decreased by as much as 42% while carbon emissions intensity could fall by 37%. These reductions can mainly be attributed to the further penetration of renewable energy; and  
  • However, growing demand for power will outpace the intensity gains, resulting in an absolute increase of water use and carbon emissions.

The joint brief is available on China Water Risk website in English or  Chinese as well as on IRENA’s website.

Scenario analysis for this brief was conducted by China Water Risk – methodology & full data sources  can be found here.