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How do we tackle nexus governance?

How do we tackle nexus governance?

The Magic Nexus team

The nexus between water-energy-food can be defined in many ways, as a matter of interconnections, trade-offs and linkages. But perhaps one of the most important ways it should be conceived is as a governance issue. The institutions, coordination and rules concerning sustainability problems across the nexus are crucial to its effective governance. This issue explores some of the questions that arise from the understanding of the nexus as a policy challenge: how do water, energy and agricultural policies impact each other? How can policies be coordinated and harmonized at the European level? Which type of evidence can be used to govern the nexus? How are statistical indicators linked to governance? With this issue, we will be sharing with you some first-hand insights gained from our conversations with European policy makers.

The first article asks: “Where do we govern the nexus?”. Although decisions made in distinct policy areas affect each other, there  is no single European Commission (EC) body that governs the sectors of water, energy, food and the environment together. In this article, we share with you the information we learnt talking with policymakers from the EC and related agencies as part of the MAGIC Nexus project.

In the second article, we explore the role of numbers in governance. Numbers matter. Achieving robust quantitative analyses to measure policy effectiveness requires a great deal of time, money and institutional support. But are we paying enough attention to how metrics are influencing governance processes? This article takes a look at quantification through a governance lens to understand how our choices of quantification may affect governance outcomes and what we need to think about to ensure quality metrics when it comes to the nexus.

In our third and final article, we elaborate on one of the main themes of the MAGIC project: Governance In Complexity (the “GIC” of MAGIC). Everybody agrees that the nexus is complex: but what does complexity mean for governance? This article presents some reflections on what it means to govern when knowledge is incomplete, contradictory or even contested. A model of governance that expects to apply “solutions” to clearly identified “problems” assumes that the world is simple. Complexity means letting go of the ideal of command and control.

These articles are aimed at initiating a discussion on the governance challenges of the nexus. We welcome any comment and contribution to the discussion. You use our discussion forum, write to us or follow us on Twitter.

 

Water for energy: quantifying the massive amounts of water that go unaccounted for

14 November 2018

Water for energy: quantifying the massive amounts of water that go unaccounted for

Maddalena Ripa & Violeta Cabello

Water and energy systems are inextricably linked. According to the Energy Efficiency Directive (European Parliament, 2012), the water sector consumes up to 3.5% of EU’s electricity for purposes such as water treatment, pumping or desalination. Similarly, water is essential for cooling power plants, for the generation of electricity and the production of bio-fuels, and for the the extraction, mining, processing, refining and disposal of fossil-fuel residues.

The International Energy Agency projected an 85%rise   in global demand growth in water use for energy production between 2012 and 2032 alone (IEA, 2017). These changes will be driven by a combination of factors. First among these is human population growth, which is estimated to rise from 7.4 billion people today to  between 9.6 and 12.3 billion by 2100. Another important factor are the improvements in access to energy for the 1.4 billion people who currently have no access to electricity and the billion people who currently only have access to unreliable electricity networks. Last but not least, the progressive electrification of transport and heating as part of efforts to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions is expected to be a key driver in the surge of water consumption (The Conversation, 2016).

While it is important to consider these factors in policy making, it is equally important to establish an adequate accounting framework to assess the viability of increments in the use of water by the energy sector. In this article we discuss some conceptual and methodological challenges we encountered when searching for European energy and water statistics.

Water for energy: accounting gaps in Eurostat

The challenge of data availability at relevant spatio-temporal scales for analyzing the water-energy nexus is well documented (Larsen and Drews, 2019). While in general energy systems can be considered to be well-monitored, the availability of integrated data sets covering water and energy domains is often severely limited at the relevant levels of aggregation in relation to nexus calculations, that is, beyond the site-specific level. Water and energy accounting are poorly harmonized in European statistics. Eurostat accounts for only one water-energy relation, the use of water for electricity generation (Eurostat, 2012). This broad category encompasses water use for cooling and the rest of water use for electricity production, without specifying the types of electricity production systems. While water for cooling accounts for a relevant share of water uses in some European countries, other relevant uses of water along the energy supply chain are neglected by Eurostat. For instance, fossil fuel extraction and processing are assimilated within the broader ‘mining and quarrying’ category, hindering nexus analysis. Water for biofuel crops and processing are included in the agriculture and manufacturing sectors, respectively.

Water for energy: consumptive vs non-consumptive uses

In order to better inform decision-makers, care should be taken to understand the differences between water use, water withdrawal (or water abstraction*), water consumption, and what the categories represent (Kohli et al., 2010). In this regard, two additional conceptual considerations are noteworthy. First, while Eurostat distinguishes between water abstraction/withdrawal** and water uses (European Environment Agency, 2018), the separation between consumptive and non-consumptive*** water uses is not included in the statistics. In fact, most water used for cooling purposes is non consumptive. This means that water is either recycled or returned to water bodies after use. A small share of withdrawn water is evaporated (consumed) along the cooling chain, falling into the consumptive use category. Second, hydroelectricity is excluded from the accounting because it is an in-situ use (Eurostat 2014, p. 43). However, hydroelectricity does also evaporate water (consumptive uses) and uses tremendous volumes in a non-consumptive manner.

The quantitative multi-scale approach used in MAGIC allows maintaining the distinction between green water, consumptive blue-water and non-consumptive blue-water. In particular, in a recent report of the MAGIC project (Ripoll-Bosch and Giampietro 2018), we calculated water use for the energy sector in different European countries (Germany, France, Italy, Romania, Spain, Sweden and United Kingdom). The water consumed for refineries, evaporated during electricity production and biofuel crop irrigation, as well as the water used in the mining and extraction of Primary Energy Sources (which can be contaminated due to acid mine drainage), was considered to be consumptive. The water for cooling and for hydropower (excluding the water evaporated during the process) was accounted for as non-consumptive.

If this distinction between consumptive and non-consumptive water uses for energy supply is introduced, and hydroelectricity is included in the accounting, the resulting picture for European countries is quite interesting: Most water uses for energy supply fall within the non-consumptive category (figure 1). Within this category, the pattern significantly varies among countries depending on how much hydroelectricity they have developed (figure 2). When looking at the consumptive share (figure 3), electricity generation is still the largest water consumer in all analysed countries. Whereas this share looks negligible in comparison to non-consumptive uses, it gains relevance when contrasted with other consumptive uses such as water for agriculture or households.

 

Figure 1 - Water use for energy production in European countries 2012 (m3/p.c).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 2 - Contribution of different processes to the non-consumptive water share (%).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 3 - Contribution of different processes to the consumptive water share (%).

 

 

 

 

 

 

The announced expansion of electrification will generate competition for water not only between sectors, but also between different consumptive and non-consumptive uses of water in energy generation. Moreover, the impacts of increments in electricity demand on surface water bodies need to be evaluated against the disaggregated contribution of different energy supply processes. Therefore, it is imperative to advance to a more comprehensive water-energy nexus accounting framework that can quantify and characterize all water uses together across sectors.

*Eurostat (2014, p. 43) defines water abstraction as ‘Water removed from any source, either permanently or temporarily. Mine water

and drainage water are included. Water abstractions from groundwater resources in any given time period are defined as the difference between the total amount of water withdrawn from aquifers and the total amount charged artificially or injected into aquifers. Water abstractions from precipitation (e.g. rain water collected for use) should be included under abstractions from surface water. The amounts of water artificially charged or injected are attributed to abstractions from that water resource from which they were originally withdrawn. Water used for hydroelectricity generation is an in-situ use and should be excluded.’

**Groundwater abstraction is the process of taking water from a ground source, either temporarily or permanently (European Environment Agency, 2018).

***A use of water is consumptive if that water is not immediately available for another use. Losses to sub-surface seepage and evapotranspiration are considered consumptive, as the water that is polluted or degraded to insufficient quality for reuse. Water that can be immediately treated or directly returned to water bodies in a continuous loop is considered non-consumptive. Therefore, a non-consumptive use is when water use does not diminish the source or impair the future water use.

 

References

European Environment Agency, 2018. Groundwater abstraction [WWW Document]. URL https://www.eea.europa.eu/themes/water/wise-help-centre/glossary-definitions/groundwater-abstraction (accessed 11.2.18).

European Parliament, 2012. Directive 2012/27/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2012 on energy efficiency. Off. J. Eur. Union Dir. 1–56. doi:10.3000/19770677.L_2012.315.eng

Eurostat, 2014. Data Collection Manual for the OECD/Eurostat Joint Questionnaire on Inland Waters. Version 3.0. Available at: https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/documents/1798247/6664269/Data+Collection+Manual+for+the+OECD_Eurostat+Joint+Questionnaire+on+Inland+Waters+%28version+3.0%2C+2014%29.pdf/f5f60d49-e88c-4e3c-bc23-c1ec26a01b2a

Eurostat, 2015. Annual detailed enterprise statistics for industry (NACE Rev. 2, B-E) [WWW Document].

Eurostat, 2012. Water use by supply category and economical sector (env_wat_cat) [WWW Document]. URL http://appsso.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/nui/show.do?dataset=env_wat_cat&lang=en

International Energy Agency, 2017. World Energy Outlook 2017.

Kohli, A., Frenken, K., Spottorno, C., 2010. Disambiguation of water use statistics 1.

Larsen, M.A.D., Drews, M., 2019. Water use in electricity generation for water-energy nexus analyses: The European case. Sci. Total Environ. 651, 2044–2058. doi:10.1016/J.SCITOTENV.2018.10.045

The Conversation, 2016. Energy sector is one of the largest consumers of water in a drought-threatened world [WWW Document]. URL https://theconversation.com/energy-sector-is-one-of-the-largest-consumers-of-water-in-a-drought-threatened-world-59109 (accessed 10.31.18).

Ripoll-Bosch and Giampietro (Editors). 2018. Report on EU socio-ecological systems. MAGIC (H2020–GA 689669) Project Deliverable 4.2. 31 March 2018. Available at: https://www.magic-nexus.eu/documents/d42-report-eu-socio-ecological-systems