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Cooling water for Britain's future electricity supply

Lookup NU author(s): Edward Byers, Alex Leathard, David Alderson, Professor Jim Hall, Professor Jaime AmezagaORCiD, Professor Chris Kilsby



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Trends in the locations and technologies of UK electricity generation plant suggest that demand for cooling water abstractions from rivers will decrease in the coming decades, unless there is widespread uptake of carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS). CCS may prove to be essential if the UK is to achieve its carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emission targets. ‘Decarbonisation’ strategies that rely on CCS are therefore potentially at risk of not having sufficient cooling water in periods of low river flows. In this paper, regional freshwater demands for cooling water are assessed against regional freshwater availability at low flows in a scenario of medium climate change. In the strategy with high CCS, demands for water greatly exceed current and future availability in the north-west (NW) England, Humber, East (E) Midlands and Thames regions. These risks can be mitigated by increasing the penetration of hybrid cooling systems or shifting generating capacity to estuaries or the coast. The former could reduce national water use by up to 35%, whereas applying the latter in the NW England, Humber and E Midlands regions offers nationwide reductions from 30 to 50%.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Byers E, Qadrdan M, Leathard A, Alderson D, Hall JW, Amezaga JM, Tran M, Kilsby CG, Chaudry M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Proceedings of the ICE - Energy

Year: 2015

Volume: 168

Issue: 3

Pages: 188-204

Print publication date: 01/06/2015

Online publication date: 03/06/2015

Acceptance date: 09/02/2015

Date deposited: 11/06/2015

ISSN (print): 1751-4223

ISSN (electronic): 1751-4231

Publisher: Institute of Civil Engineers


DOI: 10.1680/ener.14.00028


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Funder referenceFunder name
EP/I01344X/1Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council