Water shortage to hinder global energy production

Water shortages will threaten the future of large-scale energy projects, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned.

In a recent energy report, the IEA claims that the water needed for energy production is set to grow at twice the pace of energy demand until 2035, requiring the use of better technologies to manage the risk.

The report, World Energy Outlook, notes that water is essential to the production of energy and that the energy sector is accountable for 15% of the world's total water use.

The IEA said: "Water is growing in importance as a criterion for assessing the viability of energy projects, as population and economic growth intensify competition for water resources.

"In some regions, water constraints are already affecting the reliability of existing operations and they will increasingly impose additional costs."

According to the report, the issue will affect countries all over the world.

"The vulnerability of the energy sector to water constraints is widely spread geographically, affecting, among others, shale gas development and power generation in parts of China and the United States, the operation of India's highly water-intensive fleet of power plants, Canadian oil sands production and the maintenance of oil-field pressures in Iraq," said the IEA.

The wider picture of the global energy map is also changing dramatically according to the report, and energy efficiency measures loos set to take a much more central role.

IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven said: "North America is at the forefront of a sweeping transformation in oil and gas production that will affect all regions of the world, yet the potential also exists for a similarly transformative shift in global energy efficiency."

"This year's World Energy Outlook shows that by 2035, we can achieve energy savings equivalent to nearly a fifth of global demand in 2010. In other words, energy efficiency is just as important as unconstrained energy supply, and increased action on efficiency can serve as a unifying energy policy that brings multiple benefits." 

Renewables are also set for a rapid increase and are likely to become the world's second-largest source of power generation by 2015 and close in on coal as the primary source by 2035.

However, this rise hinges critically on continued subsidies says the agency. In 2011, subsidies amounted to $88bn, but over the period to 2035 they need to amount to $4.8tr it claimed.

Conor McGlone


Energy Efficiency | renewables | Subsidies


Energy efficiency & low-carbon
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