Title: Current and projected freshwater needs of the African energy system
Publisher: Publications Office of the European Union
Publication Year: 2020
JRC N°: JRC120834
ISBN: 978-92-76-19977-9 (online)
ISSN: 1831-9424 (online)
Other Identifiers: EUR 30278 EN
OP KJ-NA-30278-EN-N (online)
URI: https://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/handle/JRC120834
DOI: 10.2760/808928
Type: EUR - Scientific and Technical Research Reports
Abstract: Africa’s expected rapid economic development and population growth will increase in all likelihood the stress on water and energy resources in the coming decades. A number of studies have addressed the water needs of the energy sector, both at global scale or for certain developed countries. However, very few of them have focused on Africa, often overshadowed by other industrialised regions with a much higher water use for energy. Contrary to other studies, this report also addresses hydropower and fuelwood, not only due to the important role they play in many African countries but also because they consume large amounts of water and are therefore extremely vulnerable to water scarcity. The methodology used to assess hydropower in this study differs from other analyses, which would normally obtain the reservoirs' areas needed to estimate the evaporation losses from global databases. In this report, the assessment of hydropower relies on the more accurate information provided by the Global Surface Water Dataset (Pekel et al., 2016), a JRC product based on satellite data, which provides monthly water surfaces at 30 m spatial resolution. In this study, the current and future water needs (consumption and withdrawals) of the African energy sector have been estimated on a country-by-country basis. Primary energy production (fuel extraction), energy transformation (oil refining and electricity generation) and power plant construction have been evaluated. The results of this analysis reveal that in the year 2016, 42 bcm[1] of water were lost through evaporation in hydropower reservoirs, 4.5 bcm were used for fuelwood production and 1.2 bcm were consumed by the rest of the energy types combined. Non-hydro renewable energies such as wind and solar have a negligible effect on water use, making them an interesting alternative to conventional energy sources for the sustainable development in Africa, especially given their large untapped potential in the continent. Future projections of freshwater use at country level are also analysed, based on three energy scenarios for Africa, aligned with the JRC’s Global Energy and Climate Outlook (GECO) 2018 (Keramidas et al., 2020; Pappis et al., 2019): i) a reference scenario (hereafter denoted R) that extrapolates the current situation into the future, ii) a 2.0 °C scenario in which new policies and emission targets are implemented to keep global mean temperature increase to 2.0 °C over pre-industrial levels with a 67% probability, and iii) a 1.5 °C scenario that assumes a stronger climate objective pursuing a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions to levels lower than in the reference and the 2.0 °C scenarios with a 50% probability of reaching 1.5 °C warming by 2100. These projections indicate that by 2030, depending on the scenario, the water loss allocated to hydropower due to evaporative losses will be 93.8 bcm (R), 94.8 bcm (2.0 °C) and 93.1 bcm (1.5 °C ); the water consumption for fuelwood production: 7.6 bcm (R), 7.7 bcm (2.0 °C) and 7.8 bcm (1.5 °C); and the water consumption for the other energy types: 1 bcm (R) and 0.8 bcm (1.5 °C and 2.0 °C). By 2050, hydropower water losses will rise up to: 139 bcm (R), 155 bcm (2.0 °C) and 160.7 bcm (1.5 °C ); water consumption for fuelwood production: 7.2 bcm (R), 7.4 bcm (2.0 °C) and 7.9 bcm (1.5 °C) bcm; and water consumption for the other energy types: 1.3 bcm (R), 0.7 bcm (2.0 °C) and 0.5 bcm (1.5 °C). The low carbon policies will not only have a positive effect on emissions but also on the water consumption in some energy sub-sectors, reducing the use of water for primary energy production and transformation, and increasing the penetration of some renewable energies such as solar, wind and geothermal. However, other more water-intensive renewables (e.g.: hydropower and biomass) are also expected to increase their share in the future energy mix, causing significant impacts on water use. The penetration of oil and gas to substitute fuelwood use in households will reduce the water use in the continent. At the same time, despite the large untapped potential of hydropower in Africa, the water impacts of new hydropower developments need to be effectively considered, especially in regions characterised by severe water scarcity. New ways to limit evaporation from hydropower reservoirs need to be deployed in order to mitigate their impact on water stress.
JRC Directorate:Energy, Transport and Climate

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