- Belfer Center Newsletter

Center Multidisciplinary Team Tackles Energy and Water Challenges

Spring 2014

With a team of scientists, engineers, and political scientists, the Center’s Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program (STPP) and Energy Technology Innovation Policy group (ETIP) are tackling critical global issues related to energy challenges and water-energy connections. During the past few months, STPP/ETIP faculty, fellows, and visiting scholars have conducted research, made presentations, and held high-level discussions in the U.S., China, and the Gulf region.The work is a joint effort of STPP and the Belfer Center’s Environment and Natural Resources Program (ENRP) along with Harvard Kennedy School’s Sustainability Science Program.

Laura Diaz Anadon, assistant professor of public policy, STPP associate director, and co-principal investigator of STPP’s ETIP research group, summarized aspects of the group’s research on U.S. energy challenges in a presentation at the National Academy of Engineering’s 2013 U.S. Frontiers of Engineering Symposium this fall. She spoke on the U.S. challenges of dependence on fossil fuels and highlighted the key role government policies could have on accelerating technology innovation; e.g., by increasing R&D investments and policy stability and coordination.

Water/Energy Nexus

This is the third year of STPP/ETIP’s Water/Energy Nexus (WEN) project, which quantifies challenges posed by the interlinkages between water and energy systems in areas already suffering acute water scarcity, focusing on the U.S., China, and the Middle East-North Africa (MENA). Issues in these regions include challenges of procuring water for various power, fuel, industrial, and residential needs, and environmental impacts of using the water.  The WEN project was initiated by Anadon and STPP Director Venkatesh (Venky) Narayanamurti.
In U.S., Implications of Fossil and Biofuels

The U.S. is currently confronting choices related to the controversial Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and the regional water use implications of reducing oil imports under the RFS when compared to six other scenarios: shale oil, coal-to-liquids, shale gas to liquids, corn ethanol, and cellulosic ethanol from switchgrass. A paper by Anadon, former ETIP fellows Sarah Jordaan and Erik Mielke, and Harvard professor Dan Schrag concludes that there may be considerable water and land impacts associated with meeting energy security goals through biofuels and demonstrates a method for integrating federal policies with regional planning.

China’s Water Dilemma

Along these lines, postdoctoral research fellows Chao Zhang and Scott Moore, who work jointly with the Sustainability Science Program and ETIP, have explored the challenges in China. Anadon and ETIP associate Zhang have shown that Chinese energy production is responsible for significant water use, with most environmental damage in the arid North. Moore, working with ENRP Director Henry Lee, spent several months in China this fall researching Water Rights Trading and the South-North Water Transfer Project. He is exploring best solutions to the scarcity of water in the North where most development is taking place.

Gulf Agriculture, Energy, and Water

WEN team members Afreen Siddiqi, STPP visiting scholar, and postdoctoral fellow Mattijs van Maasakkers traveled to the Gulf region recently to meet with high level government and private sector officials and local community leaders and farmers to assess critical interactions between the water and energy sectors in the region.
Siddiqi was in Jordan to study current policies and technologies being used to manage water and energy resources. She is developing a framework for assessing future water availability by identifying local supply options and salient factors used by key decision-makers in the water, energy, and agricultural sectors. Van Maasakkers is working on water technology in the agricultural sector, which requires intense water use in the Middle East. He was in Abu Dhabi and Oman in December to conduct interviews looking at which technologies are available in the region to make agriculture more efficient and sustainable, bringing together technological and socio-political considerations.

 

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For Academic Citation: Center Multidisciplinary Team Tackles Energy and Water Challenges.” Belfer Center Newsletter (Spring 2014).