The increased demand for clean water and the advent of climate change could leave some developing countries in Asia without enough water. Not only will water be scarce, but it might lead to an energy crisis without enough water to cool down power plants in the near future. This is what a new study indicates.
The study found that the newly opened coal-fire powered plants could become vulnerable to this shortage. The paper tackling this problem was recently published in the Energy and Environmental Science journal.
“The ever-changing weather condition is one of the greatest impacts of climate change. Though seemingly simple, the sudden changes in weather conditions lead to more extreme events — more droughts and more torrential rains,” said Jeffrey Bielicki, associate professor at the Ohio State University and co-author of the study. He also has an appointed seat at the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geodetic Engineering and the John Glenn College of Public Affairs.
“The coal and natural power plants require a lot of water for its cooling, so when the world does not experience rain, the stream where they get the water for cooling won’t have enough to sustain. The power plant can’t be cooled.”
This is an existing problem for power plants in active operation in the US considering the fact that the extreme weather conditions have become more frequent, especially during the summer where no rain ever happens. However, the study suggests that the problem may be much worse for developing countries in the world, particularly in Asia. In China, India, and Mongolia, more than 400 gigawatts of coal-fired power plants are to be set up and be in full operations by 2030.
The increase in power production will in itself be part of the big problem. The researchers found that building these power plants meant creating a higher demand for water, which is significantly reduced by climate change.
The cooling part is critical in the operations of these power plants. The numbers show that there simply won’t be enough water to cool the plants and this could only mean disaster in the making. Bielicki said that this problem might lead to making a tough call — to reduce the power plants and not be able to supply the power that people need for their homes and the industries.
“There has always been that huge rift in the demands of the economy and the requirement to save the planet,” he said. “Sometimes, the decision is indeed a tough call.”