Around the globe, low-carbon electricity generation projects are being planned to meet rising demand while curbing greenhouse gas emissions. In many cases, however, concerns over water are critically constraining their progress, particularly when it comes to non-intermittent generation technologies. Cooling, an essential function in all thermal power plants, can require huge amounts of water that has proven understandably difficult to secure in arid regions. And as it turns out, low-carbon thermal technologies such as nuclear, geothermal, solar thermal, and carbon capture have significantly higher cooling requirements than conventional fossil generation. Meanwhile, hydroelectric and tidal generation projects continue to demonstrate that water as a power source has ecological, social and political strings attached.
Is a low-carbon future doomed because of water constraints? All non-intermittent low-carbon generation technologies face major water-related obstacles; this panel seeks to clarify how, when, and to what extent these obstacles will be surmounted. How much of the world's remaining hydroelectric resources will realistically be developed, when the impact of dams on water allocation and ecology is so great? Will alternative water sources such as municipal wastewater provide answers to the cooling question, or can the economic penalties of dry and hybrid cooling technologies be mitigated? A select panel drawn from across industry will bring cross-disciplinary expertise to bear on questions such as these, offering a unique perspective on this vital problem.