According to a new joint brief by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and China Water Risk, scaling up renewable energy and introducing improved plant cooling technologies in China’s power sector would not only cut carbon emissions by 37%, but also reduce water intensity by 42%.
The brief, entitled Water Use in China’s Power Sector, finds that renewable energy is crucial to not only decarbonize the sector, but also to realize significant water-related benefits for the country.
“The global issues of water, energy and climate are completely interconnected,” says Adnan Z. Amin, IRENA’s director-general. “The only effective, immediately available solution to meet the rising demand for energy while limiting environmental impacts is to scale up renewable energy. China has recognized this and must continue its leadership in the global energy transition.”
According to IRENA’s release, China has pledged to reduce carbon emissions by sourcing 20% of primary energy consumption from non-fossil fuels by 2030. IRENA’s REmap analysis on China, released in late 2014, finds that achieving a 26% share of modern renewables by 2030 is both technically and economically feasible. By way of example, IRENA notes that both solar PV and wind energy require far less water than thermal to produce the same amount of electricity.
The release highlights that 45% of China’s power generation facilities currently rely on fresh water and are located in areas of high water stress – and considering that demand for domestic electricity is expected to increase 65% by 2030, less water-intensive solutions are needed.
“The magnitude of the benefits possible through renewable energy deployment reaffirms the importance of integrated water and energy decision-making in the power sector,” adds Amin.