Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Clean energy could stress global water resources

04.03.2016

Efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the energy sector could lead to greater pressure on water resources, increasing water use and thermal water pollution. Dedicated adaptation measures will be needed in order to avoid potential trade-offs between the water and climate change impacts of the energy system.

Climate mitigation efforts in the energy system could lead to increasing pressure on water resources, according to a new study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. Yet increased energy efficiency and a focus on wind and solar power, which require less water, or the switch to more water efficient cooling technologies could help avoid this problem, the study shows.


© Peter De Kievith | Dreamstime.com

The new study aimed to systematically pinpoint the drivers of water demand in the energy system, examining 41 scenarios for the future energy system that are compatible with limiting future climate change to below the 2°C target, which were identified by the IIASA-led 2012 Global Energy Assessment.

“While there are alternative possible energy transition pathways which would allow us to limit global warming to 2°C, many of these could lead to unsustainable long-term water use,” says IIASA researcher Oliver Fricko, who led the study, “Depending on the energy pathway chosen, the resulting water use by the energy sector could lead to water allocation conflicts with other sectors such as agriculture or domestic use, resulting in local shortages.”

The energy sector already accounts for approximately 15% of global water use. According to the study global water use of energy could, however, increase by more than 600% by 2100 relative to the base year (2000). Most of this water usage comes from thermoelectric power plants—centralized solar power plants as well as nuclear, fossil fuel or biomass-powered plants—that rely on water for cooling.

Water use is however not the only problem. When river or sea-water is used for power plant cooling, it gets released back into the environment at a higher temperature, a problem known as thermal pollution, which can affect aquatic organisms. The study finds that thermal pollution will increase in the future unless measures are taken to reduce such pollution through mitigation technologies.

The study highlights the importance of energy efficiency. IIASA researcher Simon Parkinson, who also worked on the study, says, “The simplest way to reduce the pressure that the energy sector puts on water resources is to reduce the amount of energy that we use by increasing energy efficiency. This is especially true for developing countries where electricity demand is set to increase rapidly.”

The study shows the importance of an integrated analysis for understanding interlinked global challenges related to water, climate, and energy. It follows a recent IIASA study showing that climate change impacts on water resources could also affect energy production capacity [http://www.iiasa.ac.at/web/home/about/160104-water-energy.html].

“Our findings have major implications for the way how climate change mitigation strategies should be designed. Energy planners need to put more emphasis on the local water impacts, since they may limit policy choices. Ultimately we need integrated strategies, which maximize synergies and avoid trade-offs between the water and climate change and other energy-related objectives,” says Keywan Riahi, Director of the Energy Program at IIASA.

The new study builds on research conducted for the IIASA-coordinated Global Energy Assessment, and provides an analysis linking water, energy, and climate change mitigation, a focus of several new IIASA research projects.

Reference
Fricko O, Parkinson SC, Johnson N, Strubegger M, Van Vliet MTH, Riahi K, (2016). Energy sector water use implications of a 2-degree C climate policy. Environmental Research Letters 11 034011 doi:10.1088/1748-9326/11/3/034011 http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/11/3/034011

Environmental Research Letters covers all of environmental science, providing a coherent and integrated approach including research articles, perspectives and editorials.

About IIASA:
The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) is an international scientific institute that conducts research into the critical issues of global environmental, economic, technological, and social change that we face in the twenty-first century. Our findings provide valuable options to policy makers to shape the future of our changing world. IIASA is independent and funded by scientific institutions in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Oceania, and Europe. www.iiasa.ac.at

MSc Katherine Leitzell | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Further information:
http://www.iiasa.ac.at

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht NASA sees the end of ex-Tropical Cyclone 02W
21.04.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht New research unlocks forests' potential in climate change mitigation
21.04.2017 | Clemson University

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

Im Focus: Quantum-physical Model System

Computer-assisted methods aid Heidelberg physicists in reproducing experiment with ultracold atoms

Two researchers at Heidelberg University have developed a model system that enables a better understanding of the processes in a quantum-physical experiment...

Im Focus: Glacier bacteria’s contribution to carbon cycling

Glaciers might seem rather inhospitable environments. However, they are home to a diverse and vibrant microbial community. It’s becoming increasingly clear that they play a bigger role in the carbon cycle than previously thought.

A new study, now published in the journal Nature Geoscience, shows how microbial communities in melting glaciers contribute to the Earth’s carbon cycle, a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New quantum liquid crystals may play role in future of computers

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A promising target for kidney fibrosis

21.04.2017 | Health and Medicine

Light rays from a supernova bent by the curvature of space-time around a galaxy

21.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>