Monday, March 25, 2013

China’s electricity industry faces severe water shortages

Todd Woody in Quartz: For those keeping track of China’s looming environmental apocalypse, here’s another thing to worry about: The nation’s coal-fired power plants face severe water shortages that could disrupt their operations—and the economy—in the years ahead.

Coal supplies nearly 80% of China’s electricity and has fueled the country’s economic boom. But thermal power plants need water to generate steam and cool their operations. Yet 85% of  China’s generating capacity is located in “water-stressed” regions, according to a report released today by market research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance. And 60% of China’s electricity is produced in northern China, which has just 20% of the country’s freshwater supplies. The map above shows how China’s coal-fired generating capacity is concentrated in regions where water is scarce.

It gets worse for China’s big five state-owned utilities. Two of them, Huaneng and Datang, have 84% of their generating capacity tied up in areas that are moderately to severely water stressed. Even the utility with the least exposure to water shortages, Guodian, faces water-related risks to 65% of its assets, according to Bloomberg.

Bloomberg estimates that Chinese utilities will consume 124 billion cubic meters of water annually by 2030, up from 102 billion cubic meters in 2010.

“The era of water abundance in China is over, and competition for resource access between business, agriculture, and urban centers is starting to bite,” said Maxime Serrano Bardisa, one of the report’s authors, in a statement….

China's Three Gorges Dam seen from space, via NASA in 2011

No comments: