Using Spilled Energy to Combat Water Scarcity

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Water Management
Resource Management
Energy Management

Executive Summary

As recent events have shown, Australia’s climate is highly variable — both across the country and from year to year. For many areas, the frequency and intensity of extreme events, such as droughts and floods, have a significant impact on the availability of continental water resources.

With much of the country being arid or semi-arid, Australia has a high reliance on new sources of water which has permitted the installation of several energy intensive seawater desalination plants to sustain communities, industries and agriculture. This is expected only to increase in the future.

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Today, renewable energy already represents one of the cheapest ways to generate electricity. One of the few limitations to very high penetration rates in the market is its comparatively less predictable nature. As energy from wind and sunshine cannot be turned on and off like fossil fuels, there is a much greater need to balance supply and demand, avoiding energy losses on curtailment (i.e. reduction of excess energy fed into the grid during times when supply is higher than demand).

Both the future development of water desalination plants and energy surpluses from renewables could have a synergic relationship. As renewables deployment is accelerated, it would be ideal to complement battery storage deployments with flexible loads — such as water desalination — for peak energy generation hours. These flexible water desalination projects would be of particularly high relevance in dry mining regions such as western Australia, given these regions also have large untapped renewable resources, thus providing an excellent opportunity to reduce emissions whilst improving water security and benefiting from the associated cost savings.

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