Editorial: Water and energy

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Monday, March 24, 2014


THE World Bank has a most interesting infographic showing the relationship of water to energy, as we celebrated World Water Day last Saturday.

In the infographic, it illustrates how thirsty energy generation is as water is lapped up for hydropower, thermoelectric cooling, power plant operations, fuel extraction and refining, and fuel production.

It further notes that by 2035, energy consumption will increase by 35%, which will increase water consumption by 85%. This will definitely be putting a strain on the finest water resource and will worsen an already bad situation.

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Developing countries, like the Philippines, will be most vulnerable as electricity generation in these areas is expected to grow rapidly and suck up much water as a result.

It's not just having power plants to generate electricity that is the problem. It is in making sure that the water needed to cool these or run these are there.

In the US, the infographic showed that power plants are already shutting down or reducing power generation because of low water flows or high water temperatures, and companies that extract natural gas and oil using hydraulic fracturing were either made to pay high water costs or denied access to water amid the worst drought that hit the country.

In Venezuela, a record lack of rainfall resulted in low water flows and several power interruptions. While in Brazil, dams in the southeast and central west were at 28% of their water capacity in 2012.

We don't have to look far. Mindanao has been warned of power interruptions as summer progresses because of the expected drop in the level of water in Lake Lanao.

This shows that putting up power plants is not the sustainable solution to the ever-increasing demand for power. The developed countries are showing this to us. We should not be following in their footsteps where major losses are experienced simply because the facilities are there but can no longer be used or are being used at a non-profitable scale.

What does WB recommend?

To integrate energy-water planning and explore the use of multipurpose hydropower dams, integrate energy-water infrastructure, incorporate water constraints into energy planning, and strengthen join energy-water governance and encourage political reform. These should all lead to reduce water dependency of energy that will mean use of alternative cooling systems in thermal power plants, recycle and reuse water from operations, conserve water and energy, implement renewable energy technologies, explore brackish water and saline water options, and increase the economic value of water.

The targeted result is enhanced efficiency that will mean replacing old, inefficient power plants, improve power plant efficiency, and improve biofuels production efficiency.

Truly, there is more to energy than simply putting up power plants. May we better understand this and show concern on how we will be able to ensure that we are not driving our people to thirst in our insatiable need for power.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 25, 2014.

Opinion

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