Thirsty Energy: Securing Energy in a Water-Constrained World
August 29, 2013
The Energy-Water Challenge
Significant amounts of water are needed in almost all energy generation processes, from generating hydropower, to cooling and other purposes in thermal power plants, to extracting and processing fuels. Conversely, the water sector needs energy to extract, treat and transport water. Both energy and water are used in the production of crops, including those used to generate energy through biofuels. Population growth and rapidly-expanding economies place additional demands on water and energy, while several regions around the world are already experiencing significant water and energy shortages.
Today, more than 780 million people lack access to potable water, and over 1.3 billion people lack access to electricity. At the same time, estimates show that by 2035, global energy consumption will increase by 35%, while water consumption by the energy sector will increase by 85%. Climate change will further challenge water and energy management by causing more water variability and intensified weather events, such as severe floods and droughts.
These interdependencies complicate possible solutions and make a compelling case to expeditiously improve integrated water and energy planning in order to avoid unwanted future scenarios.
Will water constrain our energy future?
While a global water crisis could take place in the future, the energy challenge is present. Water constraints have already adversely impacted the energy sector in many parts of the world. In the U.S., several power plants have been affected by low water flows or high water temperatures. In India, a thermal power plant recently had to shut down due to a severe water shortage. France has been forced to reduce or halt energy production in nuclear power plants due to high water temperatures threatening cooling processes during heatwaves. Recurring and prolonged droughts are threatening hydropower capacity in many countries, such as Sri Lanka, China and Brazil.
Despite these concerns, current energy planning and production is often made without taking into account existing and future water constraints. Planners and decision-makers in both sectors often remain ill-informed about the drivers of these challenges, how to address them, and the merits of different technical, political, management, and governance options. The absence of integrated planning between these two sectors is socio-economically unsustainable.
What is Thirsty Energy?
To support countries’ efforts to address challenges in energy and water management proactively, the World Bank has embarked on a global initiative: thirsty energy. Thirsty Energy aims to help governments prepare for an uncertain future, and break disciplinary silos that prevent cross-sectoral planning. With the energy sector as an entry point, thirsty energy quantifies tradeoffs and identifies synergies between water and energy resource management.
Thirsty energy demonstrates the importance of combined energy and water management approaches through demand-based work in several countries, thus providing examples of how evidence-based operational tools in resource management can enhance sustainable development. This created knowledge will be shared more broadly with other countries facing similar challenges.
Thirsty Energy tailors approaches depending on the available resources, modeling experience, and institutional and political realities of a country. In order to ensure client ownership and successful integrated planning, thirsty energy focuses on building the capacity of relevant stakeholders and leveraging existing efforts and knowledge. The energy-water challenge is too large for any organization to tackle alone. Due to the pivotal role of the private sector in the energy and water sectors, a Private Sector Reference Group (PSRG) has been established to share experience, to provide technical and policy advice, and to scale-up outreach efforts.
What is Thirsty Energy doing?
Increasing awareness regarding the water requirements of energy projects among political decision makers, the private sector and other stakeholders in order to reduce energy projects’ vulnerability to water constraints.
Enhancing stakeholder capacity to plan and manage energy and water resources comprehensively, by improving the tools and technical solutions available to assess the economic, environmental and social implications of water constraints in energy and power expansion plans.
Fostering interdisciplinary collaboration between the energy and water sectors and promoting knowledge exchange to help develop an integrated management framework and ensure its practical application.
Developing innovative technical tools and approaches and policy-oriented material and guidance to help countries develop and manage their energy and water resources in a sustainable way.
Thirsty Energy, the first publication of the Energy-Water initiative, introduces the energy-water nexus, examines the water requirements of power generation and outlines some potential technical and institutional solutions for improving the management of the nexus.
- African Utility Week, Panel: Water-Energy-Food nexus. Cape Town, South Africa (May 13-14, 2014)
Interview with Diego J. Rodriguez, Senior Economist, Water Unit, The World Bank. “The World Bank’s Thirsty Energy initiative: Will water constrain our energy future?”
- The Global Water Investment Summit. Water Innovation Panel Session - Water Energy Food Nexus (May 7-8, 2014)
- Nexus 2014: Water, Food, Climate and Energy Conference. Chapel Hill, USA. (March 5-8, 2014)
Presentation: “Thirsty Energy”, Anna Delgado Martin, Technical Specialist
- World Future Energy Summit: Launch of Thirsty Energy and High Level Panel Discussion, Abu Dhabi, UAE (January 21, 2014)
- 2014 UN-Water Annual International Conference, Zaragoza,Spain. (January 13-16 , 2014)
Presentation: “Interlinkages and trade-offs Between Water and Energy.” Diego J. Rodriguez, Senior Economist and Thirsty Energy Task team Leader
Presentation: Understanding the Water Requirements of the Power Sector.” Anna Delgado Martin, Technical Specialist
Interview with Diego J. Rodriguez, Senior Economist , The World Bank “The Business Case for Integrated Energy-Water Planning and Investments”(January 14, 2014)
- World Water Week 2013, Stockholm, Sweden (September 1-6, 2013)
Presentation: "Quantifying the Trade-Offs of the Water and Energy Nexus" Diego J. Rodriguez, Senior Economist
- World Bank Sustainable Development Network Forum 2013, Washington DC, USA. (Feb-March 2013)
Presentation: “Vulnerability, Response and Resilience of Energy Sector to Climate Change, Water Perspective”
- OOSKA News: Climate Change Critical to World Bank's Thirsty Energy Initiative (May 27, 2014)
- Engerati: Video: African Utility Water Week, Interview with Diego J. Rodriguez, Senior Economist (May 27, 2014)
- CNBCAfrica: Africa's Power Story, Interview with Diego J. Rodriguez, Senior Economist (May 14,2014)
- The Guardian: Thirsty energy: the conflict between demands for power and water (Feb 6, 2014)
- Forbes: World Bank's Announcement of 'Thirsty Energy' Initiative Signals Growing Importance of Energy-Water Nexus (Feb 5, 2014)
- World Bank Press release: Water Shortages Slow Energy Production Worldwide (January 20, 2014)
- World Bank Feature story: Will Water Constrain Our Energy Future? (January 17, 2014)
- Water-Energy-Food.org: “The World Bank and the Water-Energy Linkages,” Q&A with Diego J. Rodriguez, Senior Economist in the Water Unit and Program Manager of The Water Partnership Program (WPP)
- Integrated Approaches to Addressing Thirsty Energy
- Ahead of World Water Day, Let's Talk about... Energy
- In Photos, Why Talk about Energy on World Water Day
- Needed: Pragmatic Energy Leadership for a Livable Future
- 4 Ways Water Shortages Are Harming Energy Production
- Thirsty Energy: Making the Energy-Water Nexus Work For Us
- Cutting Water Consumption in Concentrated Solar Power Plants
- IFC HandShake: A quarterly journal on PPPs. Issue 13: Power. “Thirsty Energy” pages 38-41. (April 2014)
- Cornerstone Magazine. “Thirsty Energy: Integrated Energy-Water Planning for a Sustainable Future” pages 9-11. (Spring 2014)
- The United Nations World Water Development Report 2014. Water and Energy. Volume 1 Chapter 5 “Infrastructure” pages 48-53 (March 2014)
- World Water Week 2013 Report, “Thirsty Energy: Water for Power Generation – It’s not Only Hydropower” page 40-44. (August 2013)
- World Bank. Thirsty Energy Working paper (July 2013)
Related World Bank links:
Last Updated: May 28, 2014