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Scenario-Based Analysis on Water Resources Implication of Coal Power in Western China


  • Jiahai Yuan

    (School of Economics and Management, North China Electric Power University, Chang Ping District, Beijing 102206, China)

  • Qi Lei

    (School of Economics and Management, North China Electric Power University, Chang Ping District, Beijing 102206, China)

  • Minpeng Xiong

    (School of Economics and Management, North China Electric Power University, Chang Ping District, Beijing 102206, China)

  • Jingsheng Guo

    (School of Economics and Management, North China Electric Power University, Chang Ping District, Beijing 102206, China)

  • Changhong Zhao

    (School of Economics and Management, North China Electric Power University, Chang Ping District, Beijing 102206, China)


Currently, 58% of coal-fired power generation capacity is located in eastern China, where the demand for electricity is strong. Serious air pollution in China, in eastern regions in particular, has compelled the Chinese government to impose a ban on the new construction of pulverized coal power plants in eastern regions. Meanwhile, rapid economic growth is thirsty for electric power supply. As a response, China planned to build large-scale coal power bases in six western provinces, including Inner Mongolia, Shanxi, Shaanxi, Xinjiang, Ningxia and Gansu. In this paper, the water resource implication of the coal power base planning is addressed. We find that, in a business-as-usual (BAU) scenario, water consumption for coal power generation in these six provinces will increase from 1130 million m 3 in 2012 to 2085 million m 3 in 2020, experiencing nearly a double growth. Such a surge will exert great pressure on water supply and lead to serious water crisis in these already water-starved regions. A strong implication is that the Chinese Government must add water resource constraint as a critical point in its overall sustainable development plan, in addition to energy supply and environment protection. An integrated energy-water resource plan with regionalized environmental carrying capacity as constraints should be developed to settle this puzzle. Several measures are proposed to cope with it, including downsizing coal power in western regions, raising the technical threshold of new coal power plants and implementing retrofitting to the inefficient cooling system, and reengineering the generation process to waterless or recycled means.

Suggested Citation

  • Jiahai Yuan & Qi Lei & Minpeng Xiong & Jingsheng Guo & Changhong Zhao, 2014. "Scenario-Based Analysis on Water Resources Implication of Coal Power in Western China," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 6(10), pages 1-26, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:6:y:2014:i:10:p:7155-7180:d:41241

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Ana Luiza Fontenelle & Erik Nilsson & Ieda Geriberto Hidalgo & Cintia B. Uvo & Drielli Peyerl, 2022. "Temporal Understanding of the Water–Energy Nexus: A Literature Review," Energies, MDPI, vol. 15(8), pages 1-21, April.
    2. Yuan, Jiahai & Li, Peng & Wang, Yang & Liu, Qian & Shen, Xinyi & Zhang, Kai & Dong, Liansai, 2016. "Coal power overcapacity and investment bubble in China during 2015–2020," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 136-144.
    3. Bing Xue & Mario Tobias, 2015. "Sustainability in China: Bridging Global Knowledge with Local Action," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 7(4), pages 1-7, March.
    4. He, Gang & Zhang, Hongliang & Xu, Yuan & Lu, Xi, 2017. "China’s clean power transition: Current status and future prospect," Resources, Conservation & Recycling, Elsevier, vol. 121(C), pages 3-10.
    5. Jinjing Gao & Peng Zhao & Hongwei Zhang & Guozhu Mao & Yuan Wang, 2018. "Operational Water Withdrawal and Consumption Factors for Electricity Generation Technology in China—A Literature Review," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 10(4), pages 1-15, April.
    6. Jia, Chenhui & Yan, Ping & Liu, Pei & Li, Zheng, 2021. "Energy industrial water withdrawal under different energy development scenarios: A multi-regional approach and a case study of China," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 135(C).
    7. Zhang, Chao & Zhong, Lijin & Liang, Sai & Sanders, Kelly T. & Wang, Jiao & Xu, Ming, 2017. "Virtual scarce water embodied in inter-provincial electricity transmission in China," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 187(C), pages 438-448.
    8. Yuan, Jiahai & Lei, Qi & Xiong, Minpeng & Guo, Jingsheng & Hu, Zheng, 2016. "The prospective of coal power in China: Will it reach a plateau in the coming decade?," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 495-504.
    9. Peng Ou & Ruting Huang & Xin Yao, 2016. "Economic Impacts of Power Shortage," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 8(7), pages 1-21, July.
    10. Chu, Chu & Ritter, William & Sun, Xiaohui, 2019. "Spatial variances of water-energy nexus in China and its implications for provincial resource interdependence," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 125(C), pages 487-502.

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