The World Bank is launching a new initiative called Thirsty Energy that will help developing countries better plan for the impact of water scarcity on energy security. According to the International Energy Agency, energy consumption will increase by 35 percent by 2035, which will increase water consumption by 85 percent.
Producing energy requires a lot of water. Yet, the availability of and access to water is negatively impacting energy production around the world. Last year alone, water shortages shut down thermal power plants in India, decreased energy production in power plants in the United States and threatened hydropower generation in many countries, including Sri Lanka, China and Brazil.
“The world’s energy and water are inextricably linked,” says Rachel Kyte, World Bank Group Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change. “With demand rising for both resources and increasing challenges from climate change, water scarcity can threaten the long-term viability of energy projects and hinder development.”
Part of the challenge for the energy sector is the competing demand for water. This demand will grow as the world’s population reaches 9 billion, requiring a 50 percent increase in agricultural production and a 15 percent increase in already-strained water withdrawals.
Given the competing demand for water, The World Bank’s Thirsty Energy aims to help the energy and water sectors manage their resources in a more integrated, sustainable manner. This includes sharing knowledge between the sectors, improving the tools and technical solutions to assess the implications of water constraints, and increasing awareness among decision makers.
“Water constraints on the energy sector can be overcome, but all stakeholders, public and private, must work together to develop innovative tools and use water as a guiding factor for assessing viability of projects,” says Maria van der Hoeven, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency. “The absence of integrated planning is unsustainable.”
Initial work with the initiative has already started in South Africa, and dialogue has been initiated in Bangladesh, Morocco, and Brazil – countries already experiencing water challenges and with a real need for integrated approaches.