Mapping and assessing potential markets for clean energy powered desalination


Multiple clean energy technologies and systems are available to the market and under development to help phase out from conventional energy sources. The optimal clean energy supply for a desalination system will differ across locations to best match the available clean energy resources, available infrastructure, and desalination technology.


Whereas small to medium sized desalination plants in remote locations may benefit from a dedicated energy delivery infrastructure, larger desalination plants are likely to utilize existing energy transmission infrastructure to source clean energy. Moreover, hybridized solutions and demand response measures can offer additional benefits such as matching supply and demand of energy and integrating clean energy sources into existing energy infrastructure.

The GCWDA work stream on Market monitoring has set targets on the share of clean energy consumed by desalination plants. Existing desalination plants have a target of sourcing at least 10% of the annual energy demand from clean energy sources by 2030. New desalination plants have higher targets for the share of clean energy, climbing from 20% for plants starting operation in 2020 to over 80% for plant starting operation after 2035. The clean energy targets set for future or newly built plants are as shown in the below figure:




Proposed activities

In order to help achieve the above targets, the below guidelines were set to serve as an action plan for this work stream:

  • Establish a baseline (inventory) of clean energy powered desalination plants and CO2 emissions from desalination;

  • Review and strengthen the enabling environment for cost competitive clean desalination: policies and regulations, pricing strategies, best practices in contracting, development and operating models for plants, etc. This review will link with the work of partners to build upon the extensive experience gained by the rapid growth and wide scale adoption of renewable energies;

  • Develop a international, regional and national market roadmaps proposing a feasible pathway to clean energy powered desalination, addressing:

    • Identification of key stakeholders and decision makers;

    • Identification of current and future demand and markets for water and the role of desalination technology;

  • Map Clean Desalination technologies, renewable energy demand response and energy efficient desalination 

  • Assess funding needs to accelerate the successful implementation of clean desalination and (if required) a technology development, demonstration and adoption pathway;

  • Quantify the climate impact of individual and cumulative regulatory and technological measures (e.g. CO2 emission reduction potential and cost savings)

Definition and implementation of these activities are undertaken by GCWDA work stream 1 under the leadership of the International Desalination Association.

© 2018 by the Global Clean Water Desalination Alliance.