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Energy-water nexus of wind power in China: The balancing act between CO₂ emissions and water consumption

Li, Xin, Feng, Kuishuang, Siu, Yim Ling, Hubacek, Klaus
Energy policy 2012 v.45 pp. 440-448
carbon, carbon dioxide, electricity, energy, energy policy, greenhouse gas emissions, households, life cycle assessment, power generation, wind power, China
At the end of 2010, China's contribution to global CO₂ emissions reached 25.1%. Estimates show that power generation accounts for 37.2% of the Chinese CO₂ emissions. Even though there is an increasing number of studies using life cycle analysis (LCA) to examine energy consumption and CO₂ emissions required by different types of power generation technologies, there are very few studies focusing on China. Furthermore, the nexus between water consumption and energy production has largely been ignored. In this paper, we adopt input–output based hybrid life cycle analysis to evaluate water consumption and CO₂ emissions of wind power in China. Our results show that China's wind energy consumes 0.64l/kWh of water and produces 69.9g/kWh of CO₂ emission. Given that the Chinese government aims to increase the wind power generation capacity to 200GW by 2020, wind power could contribute a 23% reduction in carbon intensity and could save 800 million m³ of water which could be sufficient enough for use by 11.2 million households. Thus, given the often postulated water crisis, China's energy policy would reap double benefits through progressive energy policies when increasing the share of wind power as part of overall efforts to diversify its electricity generation technologies.