Sustainability Doesn’t Mean Only Reduction in Electricity Consumption but Also in Water Consumption

The highlight of 2020 may be the COVID-19 pandemic, but the year marked the onset of the United Nations’ Decade of Action. The global community is gearing towards the 2030 Agenda, with only a decade to go. Events such as International Conference on Renewable Energy and World Sustainability Forum demonstrate serious sustainability efforts. While such forums and conferences discuss a wide range of sustainability matters, many people are only aware of reduction in electricity consumption. The truth is that sustainability is more than this, as it includes water consumption too.

Sustainability Definition

On a general note, sustainability is the capability to meet own needs without jeopardizing the capability of future people to meet theirs. Several decades after the UN coined this meaning, sustainability remains a hot topic. It is a broad subject today that covers the balance of natural systems, focusing on their diversity and function.

The World Summit on Social Development of 2005 developed three pillars of sustainable development namely Economic Development, Social Development and Environmental Protection. Under the third pillar, sustainability of resources such as water and electricity is paramount. That’s why protecting ecosystems and furthering the green agenda will gain traction for businesses as time progresses. Simply put, water consumption and electricity consumption are irreplaceable topics in the sustainability matrix.

The Electricity-Water Consumption Link

There exists an inextricable link between electricity generation and water. On one hand, the provision of water for industrial and human use requires electricity. On the other hand, most electricity generating plants use vast amounts of water. Nuclear and thermal power plants normally draw water from nearby water bodies for their cooling systems.

It shouldn’t escape notice that 98% of global electricity comes from thermoelectric and hydropower plants. The two are so water intensive that any form of water shortage makes them extremely vulnerable. We could confidently say that if there is no water, there is no electricity.

The dependence of hydropower on water is obvious. Water falls from a height in a dam setting, creating mechanical energy, which converts into electrical energy. In the absence of water, a hydropower station is useless.

Thermoelectric power stations may not rely on water as obviously as in the above case, but they are highly reliant on this resource. Heat emanates from a fuel. It is then converted into electricity. The power plant can be nuclear, coal-fired, solar thermal or natural gas-fired. Whichever the case, the plant needs substantial cooling, which is often supplied by water. Without water, these plants too would run down.

Promoting Water Sustainability Measures

Even if electricity efficiency measures in your organization are on point, your energy savings and sustainability performance is still tainted if there is no effort towards prudent water consumption. If your water consumption is unnecessarily high, remember that water scarcity is a serious problem that can aggravate the vulnerability of electricity supply.

The gravity of the matter becomes even clearer if focus is on climate effect. According to research, European thermal power plants could generate 19% less electricity between 2031 and 2060 because of climate change effects.

Power plants in the areas most vulnerable across the world are urged to invest in technologies and strategies that can alleviate risk related to water scarcity and save water. Some power plants are already ahead, having adopted wastewater recycling and dry cooling methods as part of their processes.

ARANER is taking advantage of dry cooling technology to solve water scarcity issues for power plants. Power plants use water for cooling, and have a chiller as the most preferred heat transfer device. While water cooled chillers may be more efficient and cheaper, they consume loads of water. Air cooled chillers, with their reliance on a stream of ambient air; come in handy when water is scarce for power plants. Apart from being dry (no water used), air cooled chillers offer other benefits such as low maintenance cost, better environmental stability and avoidance of chemical costs.

air-cooled-and-water-cooled-chillers
Fig 1. Air Cooled and Water Cooled Chillers

Conclusion

Realizing that electricity consumption and water consumption are interrelated is an important step towards better management of the resources and energy savings. Where water-free electricity generation is not possible, sustainability must address both areas- electricity consumption and water consumption. The opportunity exists for reduction in water consumption, just like in electricity consumption, using available technologies and strategies. Technologies such as air-cooled chillers are solving this challenge in the industrial sector. You can learn more about ARANER air cooled chillers and how they compare to water cooled chillers here.

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