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Report RSE 17001122

Water footprint of electricity generation technologies in the Italian context



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A. Gargiulo (RSE SpA)

SCENARI 2016 - Analysis and electrical scenarios, energy, environmental


This report describes the application of the “water footprint” methodology to electricity generation technologies in the Italian context.

First of all, the methodological approach is explained. We addressed aspects relating to the inventory of water consumption data for electricity production and to the correct localization of the processes. Moreover a deepening on the different impact assessment methods of water scarcity footprint is illustrated.

In order to pay particular attention to the inventory data and to the impact assessment methods, the application of the methodology has focused on a specific type of power plant: a natural gas combined-cycle representative of the Italian context. The impact assessment phase involved several methods assessing water scarcity and a comparison between the respective results. This application will be the basis and methodological guide for the subsequent application of the water footprint methodology to the national production mix. The most relevant water consumption for electricity production in a natural gas combined cycle is associated to the operating phase, and specifically to cooling processes, although the supply of natural gas contributes significantly as well.

Sensitivity analysis showed the importance of inventory data relating to the typology of the cooling system. The use of the percentages of different cooling systems derived from the environmental declarations of companies registered to EMAS, in place of literature data, led to remarkable differences in the results, both in terms of total water consumption and water scarcity.

The choice of the impact assessment method is a crucial issue: the use of different methods of evaluation brings to significant differences in the results. Much care should be paid, therefore, to the analysis and the interpretation of results, always keeping in mind the distinction between results in terms of water consumption and results in terms of impact on resource availability.

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