China: Renewables could reduce carbon emissions, water use

Illustration (Photo: IRENA)

Scaling up renewable energy and introducing improved plant cooling technologies in China’s power sector can reduce water-intensity up to 42% and emissions-intensity up to 37% in 2030, report states.

The new joint brief by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and China Water Risk called ‘Water Use in China’s Power Sector‘ examines the expected impact of China’s power sector on water and climate in 2030.

It finds renewable energy is crucial to not only decarbonise the sector, but also to realise dramatic water-related benefits for the country, according to IRENA.

Adnan Amin, IRENA’s General Director, said: “The global issues of water, energy and climate are completely interconnected. 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 recognised this and must continue its leadership in the global energy transition.”

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, according to IRENA.
Doing so would not only reduce emissions-intensity of power generation by 37%, but also reduce water-intensity by 42% thanks largely to the water saving potential of solar photovoltaics (PV) and wind.

IRENA states that the power sector currently accounts for nearly 12% of total national water withdrawals, and that 45% of China’s power generation facilities rely on fresh water and are located in areas of high water stress. With domestic electricity demand expected to rise 65% by 2030, less water-intensive solutions are needed.

Debra Tan, Head of China Water Risk, said: “Tomorrow’s water resources and carbon emissions must be considered in today’s energy decisions. The magnitude of the benefits possible through renewable energy deployment reaffirms the importance of integrated water and energy decision-making in the power sector.”

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