Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Asia Risks Water Scarcity Amid Coal-Fired Power Embrace

Inner Mongolia’s rivers are feeding China’s coal industry, turning grasslands into desert. In India, thousands of farmers have protested diverting water to coal- fired power plants, some committing suicide.
The struggle to control the world’s water is intensifying around energy supply. China and India alone plan to build $720 billion of coal-burning plants in two decades, more than twice today’s total power capacity in the U.S., International Energy Agency data show. Water will be boiled away in the new steam turbines to make electricity and flush coal residue at utilities from China Shenhua Energy Co. (1088) to India’s Tata Power Co. (TPWR) that are favoring coal over nuclear because it’s cheaper.
With China set to vaporize water equal to what flows over Niagara Falls each year, and India’s industrial water demand growing at twice the pace of agricultural or municipal use, Asia’s most populous nations will have to reconsider energy projects to avoid conflict between cities, farmers and industry.
“You’re going to have a huge issue with the competition between water, energy and food,” said Vineet Mittal, managing director of Welspun Energy Ltd., the utility unit of Leon Black’s Apollo Global Management LLC-backed Welspun Group. “Water is something everyone should be probing every chief executive about,” he said in an interview.
Investors have driven up the 49-member S&P Global Water Index (SPGTAQD) about 96 percent from its low point after the 2008 financial crisis. That beat the 88 percent gain in the period by the 1,625-stock the MSCI World Index, a global benchmark, and trailed the Dow Jones Industrial Average’s 101 percent increase.

Investor Risk

“Power is a very good example of the risk investors can potentially face,” Giulio Boccaletti, a partner heading McKinsey’s water resource economics practice, said in an Aug. 30 interview. “A problem with water can leave you with a stranded asset.”
China and India account for than 60 percent of the world’s coal-fired power plants on the drawing boards by 2035, capable of producing about 805 gigawatts. China’s alone will consume 82 billion cubic meters of water a year by 2030, second only to the nation’s farmers, McKinsey & Co. forecast.
More than half of existing and planned power plants by the biggest publicly traded companies in India and Southeast Asia are in areas likely to face water shortages, according to the World Resources Institute in Washington, which maps water risks for industries. Little data is collected by companies or their investors on what that means for projects with a 40-year lifespan, the U.S.-based researcher said in a report.

’Peak Water’

India’s power plants may be most vulnerable, the institute concluded after mapping more than 150 existing and planned projects in India and Southeast Asia. It found that 73 percent of capacity owned by three utilities -- NTPC Ltd. (NTPC), Tata Power, and Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group Ltd.’s power units --is located in water-scarce or stressed areas. Overall, 74 gigawatts, more than half of India and Southeast Asia’s existing and planned capacity, face similar threats.
NTPC said in an e-mail response that its projects require a water commitment from state authorities for the full lifetime of the plant before they go ahead. It’s also using saltwater desalination at coastal plants to minimize fresh water usage.
Tata Power declined to comment. Reliance Power Ltd. (RPWR) didn’t respond to two e-mails and telephone calls seeking comment.
“The world has already hit ’peak water,’” says Simon Powell, head of Asian oil and gas research at CLSA Ltd. in Hong Kong. Demand is growing against a finite supply of fresh water that’s shrinking due to pollution and climate change, he said.
Global water demand may have already outstripped supply in 2010. The world’s freshwater requirement in 2010 was estimated at 4.5 trillion cubic meters compared to an accessible supply of 4.2 trillion cubic meters, according to McKinsey & Co.

Water Assumptions

Coal is currently running more than 40 percent of the planet’s electricity generation plants, which consume on average three times as much water as natural gas-fired stations per unit of power produced, according to U.S. Department of Energy data. Nuclear plants use even more water than coal units.
Beside needing water to produce steam, it’s also used in condensing and to process waste deposited in ponds. Water is used in coal mining to remove impurities and transport the fuel through pipelines as slurry. Continue >>>

No comments:

Post a Comment