GLOBE-Net, July 5, 2012 - Awareness of the
complex relationship between water, energy and food security has
grown in recent years. Water is needed for almost all forms of
energy production; energy is needed to transport and treat water;
and producing food requires both energy and water. These are just a
few of the linkages in the so-called energy-water-food nexus.
In the coming decades, population growth and social and economic
development could cause a demand, supply and environmental crisis
that will affect all three. By 2030, water supply could face a 40%
shortfall, with the world's food needs growing by as much as 50%.
By 2050, energy demand will be three times greater than it was a
mere decade ago. It is therefore critical that we understand the
connections between these three stresses, and examine what
opportunities and risks they pose.
Urban development, population density and infrastructure quality
have an obvious impact on the efficiency of energy and water use,
and the availability of land for agriculture. Currently, cities are
home to over 50% of the world's population and are responsible for
up to 80% of CO2 emissions. With the proportion of people in cities
expected to grow to 75% by 2050, it is clear that cities, and how
they are developed, will have a huge influence on the environment
and the demand for energy, water and food.
Cities must become focal points of
innovative solutions for infrastructure, congestion management and
green buildings. The sharing of these best practices must be spread
Cities must be compact and connected, with energy-efficient
public transport, environmentally friendly buildings and secure
access to water and food. They must also integrate transportation,
energy, water and waste systems that are much more effective than
those of today.
For energy to play its part, it must first tackle the problem of
energy loss. According to research conducted by the International Energy Agency
on energy usage in cities, over half of primary energy ends up as
low-grade waste heat that is emitted by transport and power
To counter this, waste released from transport could be reduced
by means of promoting fuel economy standards, lighter vehicles and
electric vehicles, as well as implementing a smarter approach to
From a power generation perspective, Combined Heat and Power
(CHP) solutions - such as well-designed district heating schemes,
and the use of more energy-efficient gas-fired power stations - can
be employed to significantly reduce waste heat.
However, central to achieving a harmonious water-energy-food
nexus is investment and knowledge-intensive innovation. Both of
these do not necessarily require new technologies or inventions.
Instead, they depend on innovation in design, planning, land use
management, increased efficiency, demand and supply integration,
and consumer choice.
They also require policy frameworks that both encourage
innovative private-sector investment, and provide a degree of
regulatory stability in the face of anticipated economic and
Between now and 2050, it is estimated that the development of
city infrastructure will account for more than US$300 trillion in
building and running costs. Close collaboration is required between
the multiple stakeholders, including urban planners, local
governments, and companies involved in transport, infrastructure,
construction, IT and energy. Without it, rapid urbanisation risks
leading to chaotic urban sprawl, pollution, the disappearance of
fertile agricultural land, and more pressure placed on valuable
water and food resources.
To achieve a sustainable urban future, tomorrow's cities will
have to rely on close collaboration between private and public
sector bodies. We can be more innovative in tackling these tough
challenges together, than we can be separately.
This article by Jeremy
Bentham, Vice President, Global Business Environment, Royal
Dutch Shell was offered through SOLUTIONS, produced
by NOVUS Media Solutions on the occasion of the Singapore International
Water Week, World Cities Summit
and CleanEnviro Summit
Singapore, which ran concurrently from July 1 to 5,