The Global Clean Water Desalination Alliance (GCWDA) held its first meeting on 19 January during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week. The Masdar-led “H20 minus C02” Alliance was founded on 5 December on the sidelines of the Paris climate change negotiations (COP 21). The Alliance aims to bring together key water desalinationand clean energy stakeholders with the goal to reduce the CO2 emissions of the world’s water desalination. Organisations from 23 countries are members of the Alliance, including the United States, China, Korea, Japan and several European countries.
Dr Ahmad Belhoul, CEO of Masdar, H.E. Annick Girardin, Minister of State for Development and Francophony, France, and H.E. Michel Miraillet, Ambassador of France to the UAE, delivered welcome remarks.
Commenting on the Alliance’s first meeting, Dr Belhoul said: “Access to drinking water is a challenge affecting as much as a quarter of the world’s population, and countries around the world are scaling up their desalination operations. The Masdar-led Alliance will play a critical role in advocating for new and existing desalination operations to be powered through sustainable sources of energy. The Alliance will be a key platform for knowledge-sharing and for catalysing the innovation that will support energy and water security in the UAE and across the world.”
During the members-only session, the Alliance formalised four work streams to guide their work: clean energy supply for desalination plants; energy efficiency, system integration and demand response; research, development and demonstration; and education, training and outreach.
A draft charter for the Alliance was also presented and discussed.
The Alliance meeting immediately followed the signing of a partnership agreement between Masdar and French startup Mascara Nouvelles Technologies (MNT), in the presence of Minister Girardin. Under the partnership agreement, MNT will develop a pilot project at Masdar’s existing Ghantoot desalination pilot facilities. The Mascara pilot will produce 30 cubic meters of clean water per day, based on a novel integration of reverse osmosis with a photovoltaic system and without batteries. It will complement the four other pilot projects already active at the Ghantoot site developed by Abengoa, Suez, Sidem/ Veolia and Trevi Systems.
Commenting on the partnership, MNT President Marc Vergnet said: “MNT is proud to be the latest company to join Masdar’s efforts to pilot ways to improve the efficiency and reduce the environmental impact of desalination processes. We believe our unique off-grid solution has strong potential to reduce the carbon emissions associated with creating potable water.”
The GCWDA also welcomed its first new member on the sidelines of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, the Paris-based non-profit organisation the Terrawatt Initiative (TWI).
Representing private sector stakeholders across industry, finance and the consumer sector, the TWI advocates the large-scale implementation of solar power to address electricity demand and to promote sustainable development.
Commenting on the outcome of the first alliance meeting and its role, Isabelle Kocher, Deputy CEO of ENGIE and Chairperson of the TWI, said: “The desalination industry will require huge amounts of clean energy to produce clean fresh water, and long-term energy contracts are key to reducing the cost of solar electricity.
“There is mutual benefit in cooperating with the GCWDA to facilitate the financing of solar power generation assets through the appropriate contractual structures.”
Currently installed and operational desalination plants worldwide emit an estimated 76 million tonnes of CO2 per year. Emissions are expected to grow to around 218 million tonnes of CO2 per year by 2040 if no actions are undertaken.