Water is an essential resource for life on earth, and of the utmost environmental, social and economic importance.
Worldwide water use has increased by 1% every year since the 1980s, and is expected to keep growing at this pace until 2050, resulting in an overall increase of 20% to 30% compared to today.
Besides global water use growth, there are other challenges such as hydric stress, which affects more than two billion people worldwide, and water pollution, which impacts water quality and ecosystems.
Such challenges stem from the effects of climate change, which introduce uncertainty regarding future water availability. Water-related natural calamities, such as droughts and floods, are becoming more severe, and this trend is expected to continue in the years ahead.
EDP and access to drinking water
EDP recognizes access to drinking water and sanitation as a universal right and is working towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals, in particular SDG 15, by contributing to the sustainable use of freshwater ecosystems.
Water is a critical resource for electricity production, especially in hydroelectric plants and in the cooling circuits of thermoelectric plants.
Hydroelectric dams are strategic reservoirs that store and provide water for several uses, such as agriculture, human consumption, and recreation. The management of water availability according to seasonal fluctuations and the regulation of downstream floods are other functions of these assets.
As an important part of the organization's renewable electricity portfolio, hydroelectric plants play a critical role in EDP's strategy for reducing CO2 emissions and mitigating climate change.
In thermoelectric plants, water plays an essential role and, for this reason, we are also committed to making sustainable use of this resource. At the Pecém Thermoelectric Plant, in Brazil, measures were implemented that allow the reuse of effluents generated in the installation and the increase of refrigeration cycles with the same volume of water.
EDP regularly monitors water volume and quality at its facilities, identifies water-related business risks, and assesses the impact of its operations on water resources.
EDP publicly reports water indicators, on an annual basis, in its Sustainability Report, in accordance with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Standards. It also responds to CDP Water Security Questionnaire, where it details its water-related strategy, commitments, management approach, risks, opportunities and performance.
Fossil fuels, together with water, make up the main natural resources used by electricity generation processes at thermoelectric power stations, by the vehicle fleet and some administrative buildings. The electricity production capacity from fossil fuels, mostly coal and natural gas, is currently about 25% of EDP Group’s total installed capacity.
In recent years, due to the decreasing competitiveness of natural gas as compared to coal, coal plants have been preferred in the Iberian Peninsula.
In order to contribute to the promotion of good practices and the integration of sustainability principles in the coal supply chain, EDP has joined the Bettercoal initiative, which fosters the compliance of different stakeholders with a code of conduct (see Related Content).
In particular, with regard to thermoelectric powerplants, where fuel consumption is more significant, the following amounts could be observed:
t - ton
Nm3 - normal cubic meter
"Other gases" include blast furnace gas, coke oven gas and oxygen steel furnace gas.
Until 2014, there was an overall downward trend in primary energy consumption associated with these fuels, a trend that was reversed in 2015, due to the entry of the Pecém coal-fired power plant in Brazil within the EDP Group's consolidation perimeter. In the last 4 years, the consumption of fossil fuels has fluctuated as a function of the hydraulic index (IPH) in the Iberian Peninsula, with predominance of coal over natural gas. The cost of producing electricity from coal, including the price of CO2 allowances, has not yet allowed to reverse the order of merit versus natural gas combined cycle plants, although the latter are more efficient and emit less greenhouse gases.
Chemicals are essential for the activities of electricity production and distribution.
A big part of the chemicals consumption is used in the water treatment process. The demineralization of water and the waste water treatment are among the most relevant processes using chemicals.
The activity of equipment maintenance also uses a great amount of industrial oil.
Soil is generally defined as the upper layer of the earth's crust, formed by mineral particles, organic matter, water, air and living organisms. Soil forms the interface between the earth, air and water and houses most of the biosphere (COM (2006) 231 final, p. 2).
Soil is a non-renewable natural resource in the short term, takes tens of thousands of years to form and can be degraded within a few years, sometimes within hours.
Electricity generation and distribution activities entail a risk of soil contamination arising from the use of oils, fuels, other chemicals, waste production and storage, and waste landfill management from coal flue gas treatment.
Good practices for pollution prevention and soil protection
To minimize the environmental impact on the soil, the risk of contamination is identified and assessed in accordance with the Environmental Risk Management Manual and the following good environmental practices for contamination prevention and control are adopted:
Environmental liabilities are identified according to:
- the European law on environmental liability;
- the due diligence process.
Employees, including service providers, are trained and made aware of the risks, consequences and ways of acting to eliminate or minimize the effects of an environmental occurrence with potential for soil contamination;
The use of prohibited pesticides in Europe (more stringent legislation) is prohibited;
There are procedures for handling, loading and unloading and storing products with potential to contaminate;
Equipment and materials are installed for the containment and isolation of possible accidental spills (containment / retention tanks, absorbent material containers, gutter and sink isolation devices, etc.);
The storage of hazardous products is duly approved and registered with the competent authorities, endowed with the preventive measures established by the regulation and with the preventive maintenance that ensures their good condition;
Hazardous substance stores are preferably covered, which prevents or minimizes the entry of rainwater and thus the leaching of possible contaminants;
Hazardous substance handling areas are paved, waterproof and, where appropriate, have insulated containment systems (basins or similar), which are not connected to any sanitation network;
Action in emergency scenarios (among others, those resulting from damage, fire, earthquake, explosion, acts of vandalism or sabotage, floods) is defined and is periodically trained;
Piezometer networks exist for groundwater quality control in case the risk of contamination is not negligible;
Notification is made to official entities if damage or an imminent threat of environmental damage is identified in the following situations:
- spill having occurred in natural habitats and protected species;
- spon analyzing types of soil, down to underlying layers of it, the values were found to surpass those of the Ontario Standards reference.