Title: The consumptive water footprint of the European Union energy sector
Citation: ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH LETTERS vol. 14 no. 10 p. 104016
Publication Year: 2019
JRC N°: JRC115710
ISSN: 1748-9326 (online)
URI: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/ab374a
DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/ab374a
Type: Articles in periodicals and books
Abstract: Energy security for the EU is a priority of the European Commission. Although both blue and green water resources are increasingly scarce, the EU currently does not explicitly account for water resource use in its energy related policies. Here we quantify the freshwater resources required to produce the different energy sources in the EU, by means of the water footprint (WF) concept. We conduct the most geographically detailed consumptive WF assessment for the EU to date, based on the newest spatial databases of energy sources. We calculate that fossil fuels and nuclear energy are moderate water users (136–627 m3/terajoules (m3 TJ–1)). Of the renewable energy sources, wood, reservoir hydropower and first generation biofuels require large water amounts (9114–137 624 m3 TJ–1). The most water efficient are solar, wind, geothermal and run-of-river hydropower (1–117 m3 TJ–1). For the EU territory for the year 2015, our geographically detailed assessment results in a WF of energy production from domestic water resources of 198 km3, or 1068 litres per person per day. The WF of energy consumption is larger as the EU is to a high level dependent on imports for its energy supply, amounting to 242 km3 per year, or 1301 litres per person per day. The WF of energy production within the 281 EU statistical NUTS-2 (Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics) regions shows spatially heterogeneous values. Different energy sources produced and consumed in the EU contribute to and are produced under average annual and monthly blue water stress and green water scarcity. The amount of production under WS is especially high during summer months. Imported energy sources are also partly produced under WS, revealing risks to EU energy security due to externalisation. For the EU, to decarbonise and increase the share of renewables of its energy supply, it needs to formulate policies that take the water use of energy sources into account. In doing so, the spatial and temporal characteristics of water use and water stress should particularly be considered.
JRC Directorate:Sustainable Resources

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