Power Plants Threatened As Global Warming Affects Water Supplies

Via Bloomberg, a report on the impact that global warming will have upon power generation in the years ahead:

More than two-thirds of the world’s power plants may have trouble running at full capacity as the warming climate affects water supplies, according to a new study.

Reduced streamflows and rising water temperatures may reduce monthly generating capacity at nuclear, fossil-fuel and biofuel-powered plants by as much as 30 percent by the 2050s, according to research published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change. Global hydropower capacity is expected to drop by as much as 3.6 percent in the 2050s and almost double that amount by the 2080s.

“The world’s electricity sector strongly depends on the availability and temperature of water resources,” wrote the team of scientists led by Michelle T. H. van Vliet of Wageningen University in the Netherlands. “Global warming, with increased climate variability and likelihoods of heat waves and droughts, may have important impacts.”

The review of about 26,000 power plants found capacities may be reduced at at least 61 percent of hydroelectric plants and 81 percent of those that use nuclear, coal, geothermal and other fuels, the study found, based on current temperature trends.

That will vary by region, depending on the changing climate around the globe. Increasing streamflows over the century may increase capacity at power plants in parts of Canada, northern Europe, Russia and India, the researchers found. Still, the worldwide trend is negative.

Greater efficiency and changes to operations may help electric generators avoid the worst impacts, the authors said. A 10 percent increase in hydropower efficiency may be enough to offset annual reductions in capacity while other power plants may adapt by changing cooling systems and switching from coal to gas, according to the report.


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About This Blog And Its Author
As the scarcity of water and energy continues to grow, the linkage between these two critical resources will become more defined and even more acute in the months ahead.  This blog is committed to analyzing and referencing articles, reports, and interviews that can help unlock the nascent, complex and expanding linkages between water and energy -- The Watergy Nexus -- and will endeavor to provide a central clearinghouse for insightful articles and comments for all to consider.

Educated at Yale University (Bachelor of Arts - History) and Harvard (Master in Public Policy - International Development), Monty Simus has held a lifelong interest in environmental and conservation issues, primarily as they relate to freshwater scarcity, renewable energy, and national park policy.  Working from a water-scarce base in Las Vegas with his wife and son, he is the founder of Water Politics, an organization dedicated to the identification and analysis of geopolitical water issues arising from the world’s growing and vast water deficits, and is also a co-founder of SmartMarkets, an eco-preneurial venture that applies web 2.0 technology and online social networking innovations to motivate energy & water conservation.  He previously worked for an independent power producer in Central Asia; co-authored an article appearing in the Summer 2010 issue of the Tulane Environmental Law Journal, titled: “The Water Ethic: The Inexorable Birth Of A Certain Alienable Right”; and authored an article appearing in the inaugural issue of Johns Hopkins University's Global Water Magazine in July 2010 titled: “H2Own: The Water Ethic and an Equitable Market for the Exchange of Individual Water Efficiency Credits.”