Troubled waters: Estimating the role of the power sector in future water scarcity crises

Alena Lohrmann, Francisco Farfan Orozco, Christoph Lohrmann, Julian Fritz Kölbel, Frank Pettersson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
26 Downloads (Pure)


One of the effects of climate change is on freshwater availability. The widespread drought in the summer of 2022 impeded access to freshwater, putting into question the reliability of the current and future energy generation and evoking concerns of competition of different industries for water. In response to climate change, energy transition scenarios represent pathways to a more sustainable energy system, but often overlook the water footprint of the energy sector. Therefore, this study uses machine learning for the identification of thermal power plants’ cooling systems to estimate the water footprint of the current and future energy system using six energy transition scenarios. It is built on published data on thermal power plants announced globally, with a total capacity of 3277 GW, which are planned to be installed between 2020 and 2050. The results demonstrate that the water consumption of the global power sector may increase by up to 50% until 2050, compared to the 2020 level. The findings also emphasize that every new thermal power plant installed in the future will be associated with a higher average water demand per unit of generated electricity. Hence, the rising stress on water systems becomes another argument supporting the transition towards renewables.
Original languageEnglish
Article number128820
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2023
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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