How might water resources affect the global energy transition?
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Energy generation uses water locally (at the place where energy is generated) but also at a distance, where the (raw) material is produced or extracted, e.g. to build a thermal plant or produce the fertiliser used in biomass production. Different energy systems have different water needs, locally and globally. Conducting a water footprint analysis along the entire energy supply chain, i.e. including local and distant water needs, allows for the comparison of water used per generated unit of energy across different energy systems. Depending on water availability, the amount of water required may or may not restrict energy generation locally and globally. Differences in water demand are to be expected between different regions and energy systems, and will likely influence the longterm sustainability of energy generation, depending on the system and the availability of water. Examples include the predicted shortage of cooling water, with increasing climate change affecting water quantity and temperature, which further influences the effectiveness of thermal plants. These water constraints may limit the expansion of thermal energy production and thus accelerate the Energiewende.
What are the goals of the WANDEL project?
WANDEL systematically compares different energy systems in terms of their local and distant impacts on water resources along the entire energy supply chain, by comparing water needs with locally available water resources. Thus, the project will demonstrate how energy generation affects water resources locally and regionally (illustrative for four different energy systems using four case studies in Germany, Brazil and Morocco). It also investigates the remote effects on regions around the world from the perspective of water availability. The project will work on developing new strategies to reduce these impacts and avert water constraints. WANDEL adopts an interdisciplinary approach with multiscale consideration of the direct and indirect effects of energy generation on water resources. It aims to link data-based and modelbased analyses of various energy scenarios with their direct and long-distance effects on the water sector.
How can energy and water policies benefit from this project?
WANDEL will use the case studies to map out regulatory and technical solutions for reducing negative impacts and will develop a set of indicators specifically designed to target synergies and trade-off in the water-energy nexus. The indicators will contribute to the assessment of different energy systems in terms of their impact on water resources, and conversely, will also allow for the characterisation of the impacts of water scarcity on energy generation.