Without water, life cannot exist. Water may be the main source of renewable energy, but it is not inexhaustible. Given the changes to the climate that are taking place, the planet’s fresh water resources will soon not be sufficient to cover human needs unless we change our behaviour. The question of water is therefore becoming a major issue for companies in the energy and electricity sector. Water is needed to produce electricity. It is used to cool thermal power plants and to supply dams and hydroelectric plants.
Share out water between all users
In France, EDF manages 75% of the country’s artificial surface water reserves. The company has to share this resource with other users, while making sure there is enough water for electricity generation. The water serves to irrigate crops and restore water levels in rivers during low flow periods. Water levels also have to be respected for the tourism business and for fishing, and to maintain biodiversity in rivers and streams. EDF is developing consultation on hydroelectric structures by bringing together state departments, local government, NGOs and other water users to have their say on changes to its operating methods and arrive at the best possible balance between the different uses, including power generation. The alterations being made to the Poutès dam on the River Allier in central France are an excellent illustration.
Manage water consumption
The EDF Group does not in fact consume much water – 99% of the amounts it extracts to cool its thermal power plants is returned to nature. Even so, it is working to reduce the water consumption of its industrial facilities by developing the reuse of process water and boosting its research programmes. In Poland, its plants in Krakow and Torun now reuse all their industrial water. And for the new thermal plants in France’s overseas departments, EDF’s R&D teams have designed dry air cooling systems for the engines, which reduces the amounts of sea water drawn.
For EDF, it takes less than a litre of water to produce 1 kWh.
Calculate our activities’ water footprint
The EDF Group is coordinating the development of a method to assess the impacts on water of the entire energy sector. EDF is conducting this programme, the Water for Energy Framework, under an agreement with the World Water Council and in collaboration with the scientific community and international organisations representing the coal, nuclear, hydrocarbon and renewable energy sectors. In 2014, a first version of the assessment method was tested at 12 sites:
four of EDF’s nuclear plants and two of its thermal plants in France;
two EDF thermal plants in Poland;
two of Engie’s thermal sites in the United States and Australia;
two of Hydro-Québec’s hydro plants in Canada.
In 2015, EDF presented the method to the World Water Forum in Daegu, South Korea, and began applying it at the Group’s priority sites.