The Thirsty Energy initiative was launched at the joint closing ceremony of the World Future Energy Summit and the International Water Summit.
World Bank looks to reduce water usage in energy consumption
ABU DHABI // The World Bank has used Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week to unveil an initiative aiming to tackle the water footprint of energy generation.
Thirsty Energy was formally launched on Wednesday at the joint closing ceremony of the World Future Energy Summit and the International Water Summit, which are part of Sustainability Week.
William Rex, lead water resources specialist at the bank, said the objective was “to develop water-efficient energy, energy-efficient water and, most importantly, the tools to plan and manage these two critical resources together”.
Mr Rex explained why the issue is an important one for the world’s governments and utility companies to consider.
With the world’s energy consumption expected to increase by 35 per cent by 2035, the pressure on water resources is likely to increase as well, he said, while continuing urbanisation, industries and agriculture will also continue to exert pressure on water resources.
“We see, for example, thermal power plants in several countries around the world that have had to stop generating because they lack the water used for cooling,” Mr Rex said.
“When this happens, there are significant costs on the people, who do not have energy, there are costs on the economy of lost productivity, and there are obviously very significant financial losses by the companies concerned.”
The World Bank is working on the issue with South Africa, helping to integrate available water resources in decisions about new energy-generation investments.
Delegates at the closing ceremony also heard from Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, director of energy and climate change at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who said that for the country, the link between energy and water is becoming an issue of growing importance.
Being in one of the most water-scarce parts of the world, the UAE relies on energy-intensive desalination processes to produce potable water from the sea. With fuel prices rising steadily, generating water is becoming increasingly expensive.
“We are reaching a point where the water availability is affecting our competitiveness and could possibly be a constraint to growth,” he said.
The fact that water and energy are subsidised in the country, “has allowed the sense of urgency to be delayed”, said Dr Al Zeyoudi.
“There is no real feeling of shortage in day-to-day life,” he said.
Yet, decision-makers are aware of the need to act and measures are already being taken – such as introducing building codes that require more efficient use of water, aiming to fully reuse treated sewage effluent and investigating new technologies to use renewable energy for desalinating sea water, said Dr Al Zeyoudi.