WEO Week: Sectoral transitions to new energy industries
Energy and water

Exploring the interdependence of two critical resources

Energy supply depends on water. Water supply depends on energy. The interdependency of water and energy is set to intensify in the coming years, with significant implications for both energy and water security. Each resource faces rising demands and constraints in many regions as a consequence of economic and population growth and climate change.

Key findings

Global water use by the energy sector by scenario, 2016-2030


Low-carbon doesn’t necessarily mean low water

The fuels or technologies used to achieve the clean energy transition could, if not properly managed, increase water stress or be limited by it. Some low-carbon technologies, such as wind and solar PV require very little water, others, such as biofuels, concentrating solar power (CSP), carbon capture, utilization and storage or nuclear power are relatively water-intensive. An integrated approach focused on tackling climate change, delivering energy for all and reducing the impacts of air pollution (Sustainable Development Scenario) results in lower water withdrawals in 2030 relative to today and other scenarios thanks to the increased deployment of solar PV and wind, a shift away from coal-fired power generation and energy efficiency. However, consumption in this scenario increases by 50% relative to today.