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World Bank’s global Thirsty Energy initiative in Cape Town

World Bank’s global Thirsty Energy initiative in Cape Town

Mar 24, 2014

24 March 2014 ~ The World Bank’s global Thirsty Energy initiative aims to make more governments in Africa and elsewhere aware of the interdependencies and foreseeable pressure on water as a resource for energy generation.  South Africa celebrated National Water Week this week, in line with World Water Day on 22 March – showing that South Africa is part of the greater water resource cycle.

Diego J. Rodriguez, Senior Economist at The World Bank’s Water Unit, says there are water-energy challenges in most regions of the world, in which there’s already competition for existing water resources.  “If we look at North Africa, we see semiarid countries with many areas already facing water stress and a highly variable precipitation rate due to its geographic and climatic conditions”, says Rodriguez. “Moreover, the effects of climate change could exacerbate the problem in the future. These effects can also be perceived in countries like South Africa and other countries on the continent that are highly dependent on hydropower as water scarcity will also have an impact on the existing capacity in the near future, affecting its availability and uncertain reliability.”

Rodriguez will be in Cape Town for the upcoming African Utility Week from 13-14 May where he is a panellist in the Water-Energy-Food nexus panel dialogue during the event’s water track. More than 5000 power and water professionals from more than 30 African countries and 70 worldwide will gather at what is the largest, annual utility gathering of its kind on the continent.

Will water constrain our energy future?
“Our entry point is the energy sector” says Diego Rodriguez, “which is rather unconventional; Thirsty Energy aims to address and tackle 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. It might also be interesting to mention the main question we keep asking and using: Will water constrain our energy future?”

On the specific work of the Thirsty Energy initiative in South Africa, he continues: “In South Africa we started a collaboration effort with the Energy Research Center of the University of Cape Town to support existing energy modeling 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, also look at the economy-wide impacts of those scenarios to have a good understanding of the tradeoffs and monetize 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,” Rodriguez concludes.

The World Bank officially launched Thirsty Energy as a new initiative addressing interlinked energy-water challenges in January 2014.  See complete interview with Diego Rodriguez  For more information about Thirsty Energy: www.worldbank.org/thirstyenergy

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%.

About African Utility Week
The award winning 14th African Utility Week and Clean Power Africa conference and expo is taking place at the CTICC in Cape Town from 13-14 May 2014. Discussions, workshops, exhibits and site visits will focus on the industry disciplines of metering, clean power, water, large power users, investment and finance, transmission & distribution, smart grids and generation.
Event dates and location:
Conference and Exhibition (including workshops):  13-14 May 2014
Focus day:  12 May 2014
Site visits:  15 May 2014
Location:  CTICC, Cape Town, South Africa

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