2014 UN-Water Annual International Zaragoza Conference. Preparing for World Water Day 2014: Partnerships for improving water and energy access, efficiency and sustainability. 13-16 January 2014

Interviewing Diego Rodríguez, The World Bank

Diego Rodríguez is Senior Economist at the Department of Transport, Water and Information Communication Technology (TWIWA), The World Bank. The World Bank convenes session “The Business Case for Integrated Energy-Water Planning and Investments”

Diego Rodríguez "Current energy planning and production is often made without taking into account existing and future water constraints".

What are your expectations on the Zaragoza Conference on partnerships for improving Water and Energy (W&E) access, efficiency and sustainability?
The Conference will be an important step in improving water and energy access, efficiency and sustainability through providing incentives to the energy community to engage in dialogue and strengthening partnerships. It will allow participants to share their work and experiences in the area, discuss existing tools and methodologies and strengthen partnerships to leverage impact and knowledge. The sessions focusing on demonstrating to how integrated approaches and solutions to water-energy issues can achieve greater economic and social impacts will provide incentives to the energy community to strengthen the dialogue with the water community. The conference will also provide an important platform for identifying key stakeholders, and engaging them in the dialogue and action. We look forward to participating in sessions that focus on how to specifically strengthen these partnerships in terms of defining responsibilities, discussing long-term commitment and agreeing on a course of action.

Why are partnerships for improving Water and Energy (W&E) efficiency, sustainability and access to water and energy an important theme for the World Bank?
Partnership for improving water and energy efficiency and sustainability is of major importance for the World Bank. The World Bank has embarked on a global initiative: Thirsty Energy, which quantifies tradeoffs and identifies synergies between water and energy resource management and aims to help governments prepare for an uncertain future, and break disciplinary silos that prevent cross-sectoral planning. It focuses on increasing awareness of the urgent issues among relevant stakeholders in both water and energy sectors. It works with stakeholders to build country capacity to identify water constrains and plan energy and water resources comprehensively. It also fosters interdisciplinary collaboration between energy and water sectors and knowledge exchange necessary to develop and implement integrated management frameworks. In this context, partnership is important. The energy-water challenge is too large for any organization to tackle alone so we work with an array of partners to design and implement activities. We are also forming a Private Sector Reference Group (PSRG) to share experience, to provide technical and policy advice, and to scale-up outreach efforts. The Zaragoza conference will be a step in solidifying several of these partnerships.

How does the World Bank plan in providing support (incentive) within the energy sectors for Water sustainability?
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 heat-waves. Recurring and prolonged droughts are threatening hydropower capacity in many countries, such as Sri Lanka, China and Brazil. You can see that water constraints can be major risk to the energy industry and that the absence of integrated planning between these two sectors is socio-economically unsustainable. This is what we are trying to convey to the energy sector. Thirsty Energy uses the energy sector as an entry point and designs interventions based on country demand. It will produce a series of technical tools and policy-oriented material and guidance to inform policy-makers and other stakeholders in the energy sectors of the risks and solutions to water constraints in energy production.

What are the main challenges and opportunities for achieving W&E sustainability and efficiency?
The global challenges are great. 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 50%, 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. These interdependencies complicate possible solutions. But 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 good news is that the global development community is already acting on this issue. We are faced with a compelling case to improve integrated water and energy planning in order to avoid unwanted future scenarios. We have an opportunity to work together to produce the evidence for a better understanding of the implications and potential magnitude of water and energy stresses for the energy sector. We have the knowledge, the network and we are in the process of developing innovative tools.

How can this Zaragoza Conference in your opinion contribute to improving the nexus of W&E?
The conference will contribute by sharing knowledge and lessons learned in addressing the interlinkages between water and energy. It will shed light on the factors that make successful partnerships and agree on a way forward. It will allow the community to focus on a more practical evaluation of how tools and partnerships can help develop appropriate joint responses. It will also set a clear road map for World Water day 2014 which is also focused on the nexus as well as other related activities in 2014. This will be lead to further progress on the work already being done in addressing the water-energy challenges.