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GSR 2015

57 02 RENEWABLES 2015 GLOBAL STATUS REPORT SIDEBAR 5. SUSTAINABILITY SPOTLIGHT: THE WATER-ENERGY-FOOD NEXUS In a world with growing demand and constraints on resources, managing the interlinkages among water, energy, and food systems—the nexus—has become a key to ensuring sustainability as well as security of supply. Population growth, economic development, and urbanisation are driving up the consumption of fresh water, energy, and food, each of which is expected to experience significant long-term growth. Meeting these growing demands will become progressively difficult as resource scarcity, the impacts of climate change, and conflicting needs within the nexus intensify. As demand for fresh water increases and as supply becomes scarcer, more energy will be required for pumping, desalination, treatment, and distribution. Annual water withdrawals in the energy sector—for mining, processing, refining, and electricity generation—account for nearly 15% of global freshwater use and are expected to grow significantly over the coming decades. The agri-food sector alone accounts for 30% of global energy use and 70% of freshwater withdrawals. As food demand grows, the associated energy and water inputs likely will increase as well, putting more pressure on the other two sectors. Nexus-based policies and solutions can help to mitigate or avoid these trade-offs and to leverage potential synergies. Renewable energy represents one such solution. Despite the challenges associated with some renewable technologiesi , renewables offer great potential to reduce demand pressures and enhance water, food, and energy security—if deployed sustainably. Increasing the deployment of renewable energy technologies with relatively low water inputs—such as most solar technologies and wind—can help to reduce water demand in the energy sector. A recent IRENA study found that countries such as Germany, India, and the United Kingdom would be able to greatly reduce water withdrawals and use in the electricity sector by increasing the share of renewables. Renewables- based technologies also can enhance water security. Pumps and irrigation systems powered by renewable energy are used widely in both developed (e.g., the United States and Australia) and developing countries (e.g., India). The use of desalination plants driven by renewables is also increasing, particularly in the Middle East, where the largest solar desalination plant is under construction in Saudi Arabia. Renewable energy can enhance food security by reducing the agri-food sector’s vulnerability to fossil fuel price spikes and volatility, which have been linked to the 2007–08 global food crisis. The use of renewables also can increase product value while reducing food losses in developing countries, where 30–40% of food produced is lost due to insufficient energy for processing and cooling. Solar dryers are being used to preserve fruit in northern Pakistan, and biogas-powered cooling has been introduced in the Ugandan dairy industry. Bioenergy, produced from organic waste and non-food crops, can raise the productivity of local farms, thus increasing disposable income. To appropriately address the current and future nexus challenges, policy formulation needs to take an integrated approach that considers all three sectors. The first step towards an integrated approach is the further development of appropriate assessment tools and methodologies, which can inform decision making and implementation. Existing nexus tools model resource flows and impacts, analyse local environments, and evaluate policy options. Methodologies take either a “fully integrated” approach—accounting for all linkages among the resources, or an “entry point” approach—focusing on the impact of a single resource. The Stockholm Environment Institute’s WEAP- LEAPii model, for example, uses a fully integrated quantitative approach to analyse and model water and energy systems. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization and IRENA use food and renewable energy entry point approaches, respectively, relying on both quantitative and qualitative methods. Research and non-profit organisations already are employing nexus assessment tools—for example to evaluate potential nexus trade-offs pertaining to Ethiopia’s Growth and Trans- formation Plan and to assess alternative agricultural patterns and the potential for biofuel production in Madagascar. Some groups, such as the German Development Agency, GIZiii , and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), are working to integrate the nexus approach and tools on a broader policy level. Additionally, the water-energy-food nexus has been identified as a High Impact Opportunity by the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative. Despite the progress made and the increasing availability of assessment tools to facilitate the integration of this approach, however, governments, industry, academia, and civil society still have a long way to go to fully integrate nexus thinking into policymaking and project development. The “Sustainability Spotlight” sidebar is a regular feature of the Global Status Report, focusing on sustainability issues regarding a specific renewable energy technology or related issue. Source: See Endnote 68 for the Solar PV section. i - For further information on sustainability challenges, see Sidebar 7 in GSR 2010 (bioenergy), Sidebar 4 in GSR 2012 (water impacts of renewable energy technologies), and Sidebar 3 in GSR 2013 (hydropower). ii - Water Evaluation and Planning system (WEAP) and Long-range Energy Alternatives Planning system (LEAP) iii - Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)

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