Of course Victoria’s coal industry fuels our water shortage in a second way. It produces huge amounts of the greenhouse pollution that causes climate change. Research commissioned by Melbourne Water estimates climate change will reduce the average annual volume of water available through Melbourne’s water system by 8 percent in 2020, and 20 percent by 2050.
Also a worry is the use of geosequestration or CCS technology within the coal industry, which threatens to increase the volume of water used by the industry even further. The technology requires a third more water than conventional coal-fired power stations.
There is a clear incompatibility between Victoria’s dwindling water resources and the coal industry’s massive demand for water. However this does not appear to be taken into account in the Government’s coal-related decisions.
Victoria’s coal-fired generators use significantly more water than their less polluting alternatives like combined cycle gas, renewable energy and energy efficiency. The table below shows that our most polluting coal-fired power stations also guzzle the most water.
Once through wet cooling, subcritical coal (eg Hazelwood)
Closed cycle wet cooling, subcritical coal (eg Loy Yang A & B, Yallourn)
Open cycle gas turbine
Closed cycle once through gas turbnine
Closed cycle dry cooling gas turbine
|Typical annual freshwater consumption for a 1000 MW plant
|13 to 17 GL/year
|CO2 intensity as generated
Table adapted from data in Smart, A. and A. Aspinall (2009) Water and the electricity generation industry: Implications of use.
For more on electricity generation and water use see this excellent report by the National Water Commission