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Technology Convergence Resolving Water-Energy Challenges : Technology fusion enables efficient solutions

  • December 2014
  • 54 pages
  • Frost & Sullivan
Report ID: 2577673

Summary

Table of Contents

Research and Objective

Energy and water are interdependent and require each other to be available for human consumption. The importance of water and energy interdependence has started gaining recognition across the globe and also resulted in increased interest in further understanding of the concept. The wide-ranging implications of the water-energy nexus necessitate the convergence of technologies to address its associated challenges.
Briefly, this research service provides:
•An analysis of the water-energy challenge, focusing on 4 selected critical regions.
•A snapshot of technologies and stakeholders addressing the water-energy challenge.
•Examples of technology convergence addressing the water-energy challenge.
•Impact assessment of key innovations and technologies.
•An evaluation of opportunities region-wise and technology roadmapping.
•Some key patents that provide an insight into notable activities and global participants, and a detailed list of contacts in the field, which includes names, titles, addresses, phone numbers, email IDs, and website URLs.

Key Findings

Climate change, population growth and lifestyle changes are major factors that highly impact the water-energy nexus and can aggravate the water-energy challenge. Shale gas extraction in water-scarce regions is a major contributor to water-energy challenges. Water trade may change the extent of water-energy challenges of a particular region.
Six types of technology that contribute to solving the water-energy challenge have been identified – renewable energy (RE)-based desalination; technologies in hydraulic fracturing; technologies for thermal power plants; water efficiency, wastewater treatment and recovery; and energy efficiency.
Four regions that have critical water-energy challenges are the USA, Middle East, India, and China. Solutions to the water-energy challenge cannot be generalized and each region has technologies that are more suitable or applicable for the region.
Technologies addressing the water-energy nexus are based on 3 broad concepts, namely Reduce; Recycle and Recovery; and Zero-Water/Zero-Energy. Most of the high-impact technologies are based on the Recycle and Recovery concept.
The study identifies that thermal power plants are the most important stakeholder in the water-energy challenge responsible to a major extent for the aggravation of the water-energy challenge.
In general water efficiency technologies have a higher impact on the water-energy challenge, since water scarcity has extensive influence on many industries and on agriculture.
RE-based desalination, which is the result of technology convergence, has the highest impact on the water-energy nexus industry and has the highest opportunity of being adopted, being applicable to 3 of the 4 critical regions analysed, namely USA, Middle East, and China.
Energy efficiency technologies have seen greater adoption than water efficiency technologies, which are less developed than the former.
No single technology or concept can solve the water-energy challenge but there is a requirement for an integrated, multi-dimensional and multi-disciplinary approach. Consequently, most of the high-impact technologies are convergence of technologies.

Three major factors that highly impact the water-energy nexus, leading to water-energy challenges are listed below.

Climate Change

Climate change, which brings about changing temperatures and precipitation patterns, increasing water variability, and more extreme weather, is expected to aggravate pressure on limited resources and increase vulnerability to water risk especially in water-scarce regions. Climate change will affect the global hydrological cycle, which would impact water availability, food production and energy generation.

Population Growth
According to the United Nations, the world’s population is expected to reach x billion by 2050. This will increase the demand for energy , water (including freshwater supplies) and other resources. According to the International Energy Agency, the world’s requirement for energy would be x % higher in 2030 than in 2020. This will necessitate more water usage, thus affecting water resources.

Lifestyle / Technology Changes
Rising living standards is an important socio-economic factor that is expected to increase demand for energy and water directly and indirectly. The 2030 Water Resources Group (2009) projected that at the current level of water usage efficiency, demand for water would exceed its global availability by x percent in 2030.
Changing trends in fuels and energy technology options, such as the rise in biofuels production and hydraulic fracturing, has been towards increasing rather than resolving the water-energy challenge.
Overall, there is increased competition for water and land among different sectors such as biofuels, hydropower, irrigation, crop production, and cooling water for energy generation.

An approach to solve the challenges should be holistic in nature, penetrating across the different stakeholders of society. Most solutions are such that addressing one of the three issues would directly or indirectly work towards resolving the other issues too. Some solutions being adopted across the globe are climate-smart agriculture, agriculture using less water and energy , and a number of industrial technologies.

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