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Clean Power CEO Of Masdar: “Water Is More Important Than Oil,” But Water & Energy Must Be Addressed In An Integrated Way

Published on January 21st, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan

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CEO Of Masdar: “Water Is More Important Than Oil” (VIDEO)

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January 21st, 2013 by Zachary Shahan
 
The CEO of Masdar – host of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, the 6th World Future Energy Summit, the 5th International Renewable Energy Conference, and much more — gave one of the most forceful and pointed speeches of the many I attended last week. Luckily, I was able to record most of it. Here’s the video, followed by what I’d consider to be the most compelling points from the video and some of the most compelling points from the other part of his speech (which I did not record):

In text form, here are some of the great statements made by Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber in his speech (in bold), with some notes of my own added in as well:

“The close relationship between water and energy can no longer be underestimated. No longer can we address water without considering the energy needed to withdraw, treat, and transport it. And no longer can we address energy without considering the water needed to extract, generate, and produce it.”

I’m not going to lie — water has been somewhat under-discussed here on CleanTechnica. There is a considerable relationship between water and energy, and while we are certainly facing a huge climate crisis, we are also in the midst of a huge water crisis that is similarly important.

“Today, roughly 7% of the world’s energy consumption is used for water, when nearly 50% of the water withdrawn is used for energy.”

Those are some staggering numbers. I don’t think I’d ever seen that latter one before. But if you read my submission to the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week blogging contest or my post a couple years ago on “water & energy facts,” you should know that nuclear, coal, oil, and natural gas power plants do use an insane amount of water… but that solar PV and wind power use a minuscule amount of water, and are those much better options in an increasingly water-constrained world. Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber didn’t specifically note this in his is speech, but I’m sure he’s well aware of it, and I’d guess that is one reason why Masdar, Abu Dhabi, the UAE, and other countries in the Middle East are increasingly looking to solar PV as one of their prime energy solutions. Here’s a chart and table on this matter that I created in December:

Water efficiency of different power sources. (Image Credit: Zachary Shahan / CleanTechnica)

Water efficiency of different electricity sources. (Image Credit: Zachary Shahan / CleanTechnica)

“Ladies and gentlemen, energy and water security rests on two key principles: reducing demand, and accelerating technology that improves access. But fundamental to these principles is the need to address water and energy through an integrated strategy and as one. Because by doing so, we will drive economic growth and foster human development, improve resource security and ease geopolitical tension. This is the balance needed for sustainable growth.”

Quite frankly, you don’t hear such statements every day, and it was certainly refreshing to hear them at all, but especially in a region so important when it comes to global energy and water issues.

“Achieving it will require creating the necessary regulations and policies, forging public and private partnerships, and driving the investment required to deliver real solutions. And solutions that will require a collective action, on a massive scale, from both governments and businesses.

“Realizing action on such scale, may be viewed by some as a challenge. However, the UAE views this as a unique opportunity. An opportunity to expand economic sectors, diversify the economy and establish policies to drive investment.

This ambition to tackle these issues while diversifying its economy was perhaps the most interesting thing I learned during my week in Abu Dhabi. It’s fascinating what’s happening in Abu Dhabi, in the UAE, and in the Middle East, in general. I will write a full article (or two) on this matter.


Going back to the beginning of Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber’s speech, which I could not capture on video but do have in text, we can read some of his most striking statements:

“We are gathered here today because we are confronted with a shared responsibility. A shared responsibility to address the intricate balance between our rising economies, our growing societies, and our limited resources. A balance that is crucial to achieving a sustainable future. And a balance that rests on two critical and deeply linked elements — energy and water. Without access to both, economic growth and human development cannot thrive and poverty and conflict cannot be prevented.

“In the UAE, a nation with the 5th largest proven oil reserves, our leadership believes that water… is more important than oil. We believe that water and energy require the equal attention of world leaders.” (From there, the Masdar CEO went into the quotes at the top of this article.)

While it should be obvious that water is more important than oil, there’s no denying that oil goes for a much higher price on the global market, and that a greater economic and political focus is put on oil in many parts of the world. Also, it is a bit astounding to see a leader in such an oil-rich country focus on the need to tackle oil and water issues jointly, especially when it’s clear that oil use is a problematic water issue (and that using cleantech — solar PV, wind power, and electric vehicles — is a key solution). Of course, Dr Al Jaber is the head of a clean energy company, but nonetheless, this was a very powerful statement made at an opening ceremony that included the President of France, the Queen of Jordan, the President of Argentina, the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces, and many other important people.

Regarding our “shared responsibility,” it is clear that Masdar is doing a wonderful job of bringing world leaders together to tackle these issues in a coordinated and integrated way. This past week in Masdar, Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, there was not just another clean energy summit — there was the World Future Energy Summit, the International Renewable Energy Conference, the International Water Summit, the International Renewable Energy Agency General Assembly, the Zayed Future Energy Prize, the 1st Energy Meeting of the Arab League and South American Energy Ministers, and more. Needless to say, it was difficult to navigate it all, but we did our best, and were happy to be at such an important sustainability center. And, more than anything, we’re happy it was all coordinated or integrated like it was.

For more content from CleanTechnica’s trip to Abu Dhabi for all of this, check out our archive pages for Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, the World Future Energy Summit, and/or the International Renewable Energy Conference.

Full Disclosure: my trip to Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week was funded by Masdar. That said, I was completely free to cover what I wanted throughout the week, and at no point did I feel under pressure to cover any specific events or Masdar in any particular way.

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About the Author

spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as the director/chief editor. Otherwise, he's probably enthusiastically fulfilling his duties as the director/editor of Solar Love, EV Obsession, Planetsave, or Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and wind energy expert. If you would like him to speak at a related conference or event, connect with him via social media. You can connect with Zach on any popular social networking site you like. Links to all of his main social media profiles are on ZacharyShahan.com.



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  • http://MrEnergyCzar.com/ MrEnergyCzar

    They are getting nervous seeing their middle east populations grow at very high rates…. they need to get off burning oil for electricity…

    MrEnergyCzar

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      It’s also economical for them to stop burning oil themselves (as much as possible) and sell the oil they have to others. Additionally, they seem to recognize that, while they are currently the center of the global energy economy, they won’t be in 50 years or so unless the learn to dominate the cleantech industry.

      And in the case of the UAE, there does actually seem to be a strong environmental ethic up high (though, I don’t know enough to know if that’s truly the case, I will share what I do know in a coming post).

      • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

        Sorry, just got an email that this comment was never delivered, so posting it now. :D

      • cynthia shahan

        As is found in this and other videos from this Week of Sustainability, which do bring energy of hope and light on all critical issues, is there however, one point in which we find companies, countries, are moving forward unanimously outside this conference of people saying similar and the same thing. In other-words, who is most effectively moving forward in water conservation, who is working together in renewable s, who is moving forward rapidly as is needed, other than speaking together?

        • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

          I didn’t see any details on such matters in these general speeches. They were surely included in specific side sessions, though. There were hundreds and hundreds of those.

  • ken upton

    there is loads of water all over the world its called humidity . 4Paz charity and Virgin have systems to collect it.The Virgin is for plants in the desert and uses solar power.4Paz system uses wind and solar to condense the humidity to be used in a green house desert gardens.The wind and solar heat goes to make more RE from the green house dynamic roof over the garden.,Where the kite energy turbines use the cyclonic heat and air stream in the roof exit .It was published years ago but no funding or interest to develop this type of technology (.Until now !)

  • Otto

    To the point you are making about the use of water to extract energy; If the natural gas industry’s growth using horizontal fracking is inevitable, the rational environmental demand should be that fracking be done without water and without leaving a waste water problem. This is entirely doable with propane fracking which uses no water, leaves no waste water stream and is almost 100% recoverable and recyclable . Renewable energy is the perfect solution to our energy needs, but a good solution should not be the enemy of a perfect solution. Otto

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