Monday, November 4, 2013

Why is Europe failing to take the energy-water connection seriously?

Brooke Barton in the "Water hub" at the Guardian (UK): Concerns are intensifying in the US about the troubling interdependence of the economy's water and energy needs. In particular, the vast quantities of water (about 40% of national water withdrawals) needed for cooling US power plants are making headlines, and proposals to build thirsty new generation plants in drought-stricken states like Texas are under heavy scrutiny. Hydropower is also under strain from climate change, as more and more "one in a hundred years" droughts are reducing rivers to a trickle and power generation to a near standstill.

But in the EU, this growing collision between energy and water resources has been strikingly absent from public discussion, let alone from the EU energy agenda.

That's not to say scientists aren't trying to put it there. I recently had the pleasure of seeing John Matthews, director of freshwater and climate change at Conservation International, wake up an otherwise sleepy crowd of Commission staff and MEPs in Brussels with this powerful image of Las Vegas' dwindling Lake Mead and America's most iconic – and soon to be stranded – hydro-power asset, the Hoover Dam. The southwest US is painfully close to losing an important energy source for 1.3 million people living in Arizona, Nevada and California.

...Still, I wasn't sure if European legislators and investors in Brussels would relate to these challenges 5,000 miles away. Judging from the chorus of gasps to Matthew's slides, the point was driven home.

And it's not just scientists and NGOs prodding the regulators on these trends. European utilities such as Enel are also voicing concern. Enel is a multinational heavyweight in the power sector, with generation and distribution activities in 40 countries. Of the company's 98GW of installed capacity, a whopping 31% comes from hydropower. The company is also under strict carbon emissions targets in the EU, and a stable, low-carbon hydropower portfolio is critical to meeting them. For Enel, the water-energy collision is much more than an interesting catchphrase....

Statue is named "Winged Figures of the Republic," by Oskar J. W. Hansen, it's located on the Nevada side of Hoover Dam. Shot by Raquel Baranow, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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