Water ressource managment
Water is needed for generating electricity. The force of water is a raw material used to generate hydropower, the Group’s most important renewable energy, with an installed capacity of 23 GW and 301 large dams in the world. Water is also needed for cooling fossil-fired plants and for extracting and refining oil and gas products.
Hydroelectricity, i.e. water, also plays an important role in electric systems. Reservoirs and wastewater treatment plants are used to store water that can be rapidly transformed into electric energy. Reservoirs are thus a form of large-scale electricity storage (14 GW available in around 10 minutes in France), which is essential for covering peak consumption periods, developing intermittent renewable energies and responding to incidents in order to avoid blackouts.
In France, EDF manages 7.5 billion cubic metres of water stored in its reservoirs, representing around 75% of the country’s artificial water reserves. At Group level, some 50 billion cubic metres of water are drawn for cooling thermal generation plants, with 99% discharged back into the environment almost immediately. EDF, therefore, draws significant amounts of water but consumes very little.
Managing water withdrawal and consumption
The Group is committed to improving its performance in terms of water drawn and consumed for existing power plants, and to more efficient use of water at regional and water basin level.
The breakdown of water used in 2017 to cool EDF group’s thermal generation plants and by EDF is presented in the following charts and the table of environmental indicators.
Breakdown of water drawn to cool EDF Group thermal generation plants (in %)
Overall, 66% of the water used by the Group for cooling purposes is drawn from the sea or estuaries, where there is no risk of water shortage. These sources account for almost 60% in France, more than 99% in the United Kingdom and almost 91% in Italy.
The figure for water drawn rose by less than 1%, mainly reflecting an increase in fossil fuel-based thermal generation in France and the United Kingdom. In light of the changes planned for some Group assets, including the closure of old fossil-fired power plants, the amount of fresh water drawn and consumed – currently stable for the most part – will fall in the years to come.
Geographical breakdown of water drawn to cool EDF group thermal generation plants
The heat sensitivity of fossil-fired power plants is diminishing in France with the closure of old coal- or oil-fired facilities located near rivers. The Aramon power plant, for example, was closed in 2016. New thermal generation facilities are located near the sea (e.g. the Martigues CCGT) or equipped with air cooling systems (Blénod 5 and industrial commissioning of the very high performance Bouchain CCGT), which reduces water dependency.
Water evaporated, which is comparable to the consumption of water necessary for cooling certain fossil-fired generation plants (closed circuit), accounts for only 1% of water drawn. On that basis, almost 99% of all water drawn is returned to the environment. In accordance with local regulations governing discharges, Group companies implement measures to ensure that quality and temperature criteria are met, and they take corrective measures immediately if thresholds are exceeded.
Breakdown of type of water drawn by continent (in % and 109 m3)
The exposure of the Group’s generation assets to water stress has been assessed and remains low as its facilities are located mainly in Europe (almost 99% of the total water drawn by the Group, of which over 77% in France and over 18% in the United Kingdom) and the majority of its nuclear and thermal generation plants are located near the sea.
EDF group’s specific consumption of water evaporated
The specific consumption of water evaporated per kilowatt hour of electricity generated by the Group’s fossil-fired, gas-fired and nuclear power plants came to 1.03 litres/kWh. These values are lower than the averages for the sector published in specialist literature because open circuits and salt water are used for certain plants, 1.8 l/kWh to 2.8 l/kWh according to the International Atomic Energy Agency(2). Accounting for energy produced by renewables, which do not use water, specific consumption is even lower, at 0.94 l/kWh.
Every month EDF reports the results of the various measures used to monitor water quality by its laboratories specialised in the environment, all ASN approved, located near nuclear power plants. Each of them has its own authorisation to draw and discharge water.
Specific consumption (in l/kWh)
|Water consumed / thermal generation
|Water consumed / total generation
(1) Number of large dams in gross data (270 dams net), regardless of the equity interest of EDF group’s in these dams, and based on the French classification system (Decree no. 2015-526)
relating to class A and B dams (over 10 metres high).
(2) Extract from the report Efficient Water Management in Water Cooled Reactors, International Atomic Energy Agency, 2012.