The world’s rapidly dwindling freshwater resources could be further depleted if plans for hundreds of new coal power plants worldwide go ahead, threatening severe drought and competition, according to a new Greenpeace International report.
“If all the proposed coal plants would be built, the water consumed by coal power plants around the world would almost double. We now know that coal not only pollutes our skies and fuels climate change, it also deprives us of our most precious resources: water,” said Harri Lammi, a Greenpeace senior global campaigner on coal.
Thailand is in the grip of its worst drought for more than 20 years, with water levels in the country’s biggest dams lower than 10 per cent. Phuket’s authority have given assurance that there is enough water for Phuket, but already, some in Phuket are having difficulties getting an adequate amount of water from the public water service.
Phuket wise, Thailand’s Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) is moving ahead with a planned coal fired electricity plant for Phuket, to keep up with future electricity needs. In Phuket, there has been some activity against the EGAT’s plan.
The Greenpeace report is the first global plant-by-plant study of the coal industry’s current and future water demand. The research also identifies the regions that are already in water deficit, where existing and proposed coal plants would speed up the depletion of water resources.
Globally, 8,359 existing coal power plant units already consume enough water to meet the basic water needs of 1 billion people. A quarter of the proposed new coal plants are planned in regions
already running a freshwater deficit, where water is used faster than it is naturally replenishing, which Greenpeace calls red-list areas.
The top countries with proposed additional coal plant capacity in red-list areas are China (237 GW), India (52 GW) and Turkey (7 GW). Almost half of the proposed Chinese coal fleet is in red list areas. In India and Turkey this figure is 13%.
Coal is one of the most water-intensive methods of generating electricity. According to the International Energy Agency, coal could account for 50% of the growth in global water consumption for power generation over the next 20 years.
Greenpeace research shows that if the proposed coal plants come online, their consumption of water will increase by 90%. Given the deepening water crisis in the major coal power bases, it is unbelievable that plans for hundreds of new coal plants are even being considered.
“Governments must recognise that replacing coal with renewable energy will not only help them deliver on their climate agreements, but also deliver huge water savings. It’s more urgent than ever that we move towards a 100% renewable future,” said Iris Cheng, lead author of the Greenpeace International report.