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Energy Sector

With current pressures of urbanization and population growth there is a growing demand for reliable energy sources. With global electrification rates over 85 per cent (“Access to Electricity: % of Population”, The World Bank) and on the rise, electricity in particular is the world’s fasted area of growth for end-use energy consumption (International Energy Outlook 2016, IEA p. 4). Whether for residential, commercial, industrial or transportation use, the need for both electricity and thermal energy is pervasive.

Energy production requires water for cooling of thermoelectrical power plants. Generating energy also requires land resources to host physical infrastructure and to grow energy crops for biofuels. Adoption of energy efficiency measures, on-site renewable energy and green building strategies in the built environment can help reduce the amount of energy required from power utilities. However, the expanded use of electric vehicles increases the demand for utility power in lieu of petroleum fuels. Concerns over climate change and fuel shortages are driving the energy sector to install lower carbon energy sources and more efficient technologies for conventional fuels. There is great opportunity for synergy between the energy, water and land-use sectors to improve system operations through integrated planning and design.

Water Use for Energy

This section describes how water and land/food are inputs to energy. Learn more here on how energy is an input for water, and how energy is an input for the land/food sector

Water is essential to both producing fuels and generating power—and the need for water in the energy sector will only continue to grow, with projections showing a nearly 60 per cent increase between 2014 and 2040 (World Energy Outlook 2016, IEA, pp. 347, 353). Power generation from fossil fuel represents 58 per cent of water withdrawals, followed by nuclear power at 28 per cent, primary energy production (coal, natural gas, oil and biofuel) at 12 per cent, and renewables at 2 per cent. Thermoelectric power plants, in particular, are one of the largest water consumers in both the United States and globally (“Thermoelectric Power Water Use”, USGS, updated October 18, 2017). In the United States, thermoelectric power plants account for over 40 per cent of freshwater withdrawals (The Energy-Water Collision: 10 Things You Should Know, Union of Concerned Scientists, 2010).

Fuel mix, plant function (baseload versus peaking), plant design, cooling technology and weather all influence the quantity of water consumed at thermoelectric power plants. Water is also essential to operating certain renewable energy technologies, such as concentrating solar power and geothermal power, and is a requirement for biofuels, which are the largest source of water withdrawals and consumption for primary energy production (World Energy Outlook 2016, IEA, p. 356). Water is also fundamental to operating hydro and marine power sources and it is required for fuel extraction and processing.

Water use for energy topics covered here include key considerations regarding the use of water for the extraction, processing and generation of energy, including water quality, water efficiency, water treatment, fit-for-purpose water, access to clean and reliable water supplies, urbanization, cooling technologies, fuel extraction and processing, renewable energy generation, fossil fuel-based power generation, hydropower, marine energy, energy efficiency, demand response, ancillary grid services and energy storage.

Land Use for Energy

Land is used in energy production to grow energy crops (such as biofuels) and to host the infrastructure that generates power from both renewable and conventional power sources. The land requirements of these technologies can have substantial impacts on land availability for development and for ecosystem functionality.

Biofuels are the most land-intensive of all energy sources—“corn ethanol supplies roughly 4% of transportation fuel in the United States, but requires five to ten-times more land than would be required to derive two-thirds of the country’s electricity from wind and solar. Further, biomass for electricity requires an order of magnitude more land than solar power (“How Much Land Does Solar, Wind and Nuclear Energy Require?” The Energy Collective, June 25, 2015).” Also, biofuels can contribute to deforestation and other land conversions, which can increase carbon dioxide emissions, with crop selection being a key consideration in the potential for adverse impacts (“Land-use Changes and Biofuels: The Changing Landscape of Low-carbon Fuel Risks and Rewards”, Union of Concerned Scientists, 2008).

Land-use decisions in the built environment, such as development density, construction materials, use of sustainable building strategies, equipment selection, and landscaping, also influence energy demand. “Buildings are responsible for an enormous amount of global energy use, resource consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED)-certified buildings have 34 per cent lower CO2 emissions, consume 25 per cent less energy and 11 per cent less water, and have diverted more than 80 million tons of waste from landfills (“Benefits of Green Building”, U.S. Green Building Council , updated October 2017).”

Land use for energy topics covered here encompass key considerations pertaining to land-use impacts on the extraction, processing, generation, and transmission of energy, including energy crops, renewable energy, fossil fuel-based energy, nuclear power, land-use change, land conversion, energy efficiency, transportation and the built environment.

While industrial energy use varies greatly by country, the industrial sector uses more energy globally than any other end-use sector, consuming 54 per cent of all delivered energy. This energy demand is projected to increase over the next 20 years (International Energy Outlook 2016, IEA p. 113). The main energy consuming industries are discussed further under industry impacts.

The energy sector includes policies and best practices as they relate to the following key topics:

Resources CESC

Sectors-cesc
Resources countries

Publication

A World at Risk: Aggregating Development Trends to Forecast Global Habitat Conversion

The authors of this article project and aggregate global spatial patterns of expected urban and agricultural expansion, as well as…

Sources:

PLoS ONE

Date:

7 October 2015

Publication

Agrivoltaic Potential on Grape Farms in India

To investigate and quantify PV generation potential, without significantly harming agriculture output, the authors of this study explore the viability…

Sources:

Sustainable Energy Technologies and Assessments

Date:

1 October 2017

Publication

Agrivoltaic Systems to Optimise Land Use for Electric Energy Production

In this work, a patented “agrivoltaic” solar tracking system named Agrovoltaico is examined in combination with a maize crop in…

Sources:

Applied Energy

Date:

15 June 2018

Publication

Aquavoltaics: Synergies for Dual Use of Water Area for Solar Photovoltaic Electricity Generation and Aquaculture

This paper reviews the fields of floatovoltaic technology (i.e., water-deployed solar photovoltaic systems) and aquaculture (i.e., farming of aquatic organisms)…

Sources:

Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews

Date:

1 December 2017

Publication

Assessing the Feasibility of Using Produced Water for Irrigation in Colorado

This research explores which counties in Colorado may be best suited to reusing produced water for agriculture based on a…

Sources:

Science of the Total Environment

Date:

1 November 2018

Publication

Cities and “Budget‐based” Management of the Energy‐Water‐Climate Nexus: Case Studies in Transportation Policy, Infrastructure Systems, and Urban Utility Risk Management

This article reviews city case studies to inform a framework for developing urban infrastructure design standards and policy instruments that…

Sources:

Environmental Progress and Sustainable Energy (AlChE)

Date:

3 November 2017

Publication

Climate and Water Resource Change Impacts and Adaptation Potential for US Power Supply

This paper evaluates the performance of 1,080 thermoelectric plants across the contiguous United States under future climates (2035–2064) and their…

Sources:

Nature International Journey of Science

University of New York

The City College of New York

National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Sandia National Laboratory

Date:

30 October 2017

Tools and Websites

Columbia Water Center: Water-Food-Energy Nexus

The CWC studies how the water, food, and energy sectors are interrelated and how climate affects the relationship. On the…

Sources:

Columbia Water Center

Publication

Connecting Water and Energy: Assessing the Impacts of Carbon and Water Constraints on China’s Power Sector

The limited endowments, uneven temporal and spatial distribution of energy and water resources pose significant challenges to China’s sustainable development,…

Sources:

Applied Energy

Date:

1 January 2017

Publication

Concrete Thermal Energy Storage for Linear Fresnel Collectors: Exploiting the South Mediterranean’s Solar Potential for Agri-food Processes

This case study examines the possibility of generating, by a solar industrial process heating plant, the thermal energy required annually…

Sources:

Energy Conversion and Management

Date:

15 June 2018

Publication

Coupling Aquaculture with Forest Plantations for Food, Energy, and Water Resiliency

Coupling freshwater aquaculture and forest bioenergy markets can improve food, energy, and water resiliency by enhancing ecosystem services through fertilization,…

Sources:

Science of the Total Environment

Date:

15 November 2016

Tools and Websites

Energy-Water Nexus Crosscut

The Energy-Water Nexus Crosscut Team (originally called the Water-Energy Tech Team) was formed in late 2012 to address these issues.…

Sources:

U.S. Department of Energy

Tools and Websites

Environmental Defense Fund: Energy-Water Nexus

This website advocates for an integrated approach to energy-water planning.

Sources:

Environmental Defense Fund

Publication

Expenditure of Low-Income Households on Energy : Evidence from Africa and Asia

Report abstract: “Patterns of household energy use and expenditure have been the subject of a large number of studies. Household…

Sources:

World Bank Group

Date:

1 June 2010

Tools and Websites

Grace Communications Foundation: Nexus Food, Water and Energy

This website examines the “nexus” of where food, water and energy systems intersect. It takes water (lots of it) to…

Sources:

Grace Communications Foundation

Publication

Identifying Critical Supply Chains and Final Products: An Input-output Approach to Exploring the Energy-Water-Food Nexus

The authors of this paper take the United Kingdom as a case study and calculate energy, water and food consumption-based…

Sources:

Applied Energy

Date:

15 January 2018

Tools and Websites

Integrated GREEN Solutions

Integrated GREEN Solutions provides a wide spectrum of environmental services. i.GREENs services can be summarized into three main groups: Training…

Sources:

Integrated GREEN Solutions

Publication

Low-carbon Competitiveness in Kenya

Article abstract: “The aim of Kenya’s Vision 2030 initiative is to create a globally competitive and prosperous nation with a…

Sources:

Overseas Development Institute (ODI)

Date:

30 September 2013