Biological and Environmental Research - Earth and Environmental System Sciences
Earth and Environmental System Modeling

Calculating water consumption and withdrawal from power plants globally using machine learning, remote sensing and power plant data from the Power Watch platform

Friday, December 15, 2017 - 13:40
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The Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHGP), Scope 2 Guidance standardizes how companies measure greenhouse gas emissions from purchased or independently generated electricity (called “scope 2 emissions”). Additionally, the interlinkages between industrial or commercial (nonresidential) energy requirements and water demands have been studied extensively, mostly at the national or provincial scale, focused on industries involved in power generation.

However there is little guidance available for companies to systematically and effectively quantify water withdrawals and consumption (herein referred to as “water demand”) associated with purchased or acquired electricity(what we call “Scope 2 Water”). This lack of guidance on measuring a company’s water demand from electricity use is due to a lack of data on average consumption and withdrawal rates of water associated with purchased electricity.


There is growing demand from companies in the food, beverage, manufacturing, information communication and technology, and other sectors for a methodology to quantify Scope 2 water demands. By understanding Scope 2 water demands, companies could evaluate their exposure to water-related risks associated with purchased or acquired electricity, and quantify the water benefits of changing to less water-intensive sources of electricity and energy generation such as wind and solar.

However, there has never been a way of quantifying Scope 2 Water consumption and withdrawals for a company across its international supply chain. Even with interest in understanding exposure to water related risk and measuring water use reductions, there has been no quantitative way of measuring this information.

But WRI’s Power Watch provides the necessary data to allow for the Scope 2 Water accounting, because it will provide water withdrawal and consumption rates associated with purchased electricity at the power plant level. By calculating the average consumption and withdrawal rates per unit of electricity produced across a grid region, companies can measure their water demand from facilities in that region.

WRI is now developing a global dataset of grid level water consumption rates and developing a guidance for companies to report water demand across their supply chain and measure their reductions.

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