Diego Rodriguez, senior economist of the World Bank’s water unit, says the institution officially launched Thirsty Energy at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi in January 2014. “Our entry point is the energy sector, which is rather unconventional; Thirsty Energy aims to deal with the strong interlinkages from the energy rather than a water perspective. As such, the initiative needs to work initially with the energy community and then bring the water community to ensure that we develop integrated planning and integrated investment solutions.”
In the United States, power plants have already shut down or reduced electricity generation due to low water flows or high water temperatures and licenses for new plants have been revoked or delayed due to lack of water availability; in the north-east of Brazil, a drought led to eight months of power rationing; in India, power plants have shut down for days due to lack of water; in France and the United States nuclear plants have had to shut down due to increasing water temperatures.
“At the same time, it is important to say that electricity generation will increase rapidly within the next decades, specifically in the developing world and emerging economies. Some are already experiencing water and energy security challenges. Recent estimates show that emerging economies like China, India and Brazil will double their energy consumption in the next forty years; Africa’s electricity generation will be seven times as high as it is presently by 2050 while, in Asia, primary energy production will almost double and electricity generation will more than triple by the same year.
Rodriguez says that as a result of the huge water usage of the power sector, water demand will also increase and put pressure on the entire water sector as demand from agriculture, industry, and water supply for human consumption will also be increasing.
“In South Africa we started a collaboration effort with the Energy Research Centre of the University of Cape Town to support existing energy modelling tools to incorporate water constraints on energy development to reflect the real cost of allocating water to the power sector and work to integrate water considerations into energy planning frameworks.
We will look at different scenarios and, based on the results and as a second phase, we will look at the economy-wide impacts of those scenarios to have a good understanding of the trade-offs and monetise economic impacts of different water allocation schemes. We are also planning to showcase the existing knowledge of South Africa by addressing water scarcity in the power sector – such as the implementation of dry cooling versus wet cooling – and to foster south-to-south knowledge exchange.”
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