23 Aug 2019, 13:23
Sören Amelang

Increasing droughts can destabilise power supply in Germany and beyond – WWF report

Clean Energy Wire

Droughts caused by climate change pose a growing risk to the power supply in Germany and around the globe, according to a report by WWF Germany. 90 percent of global electricity generation depends on water for raw materials, farming energy crops, cooling power plants and transporting fuels, the report says. "43 percent of the total freshwater withdrawal in Europe is used to cool thermal power plants." According to the analysis, half of the world's thermal power plant capacity – mainly coal, natural gas and nuclear power – and five percent of hydropower are exposed to a "high to very high risk" of drought. "High risk of drought also exists in Germany for the Jänschwalde, Boxberg, Schwarze Pumpe and HKW Cottbus coal-fired power plants."

During the 2018 heat wave in northern Europe, some German power plants had to throttle generation due to a lack of cooling water, or because low water levels meant ships could no longer supply sufficient fuel, such as hard coal. But the German government said supply security was not in danger. The exceptionally dry weather led to very low water levels in the Rhine River, Germany’s most important waterway, causing severe shipping interruptions that cut countless companies off from supplies, including hard coal power stations. Researchers have said low water levels on the Rhine River could occur more frequently as a result of climate change.

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