Water and Energy: An Important Issue for GDF SUEZ

By Engie
02:08 PM, July 16, 2014

By 2030, the world will face a water shortage in the amount of 40 percent of its needs. The energy sector, which is the second major user of water behind agriculture, will have to face this challenge. Hence, it is important for GDF SUEZ to be prepared for potential impacts on its business and identify risks and opportunities related to the problem of lack of water.

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Energy, Gas, Electricity

Due to the nature of its industrial processes, GDF SUEZ pays particular attention to water management in its energy production and wastewater treatment processes. Since water is an essential resource for life, the availability and quality of water resources are two key priorities for the planet. GDF SUEZ works on these issues by implementing operational measures and by lending ideas to international discussions on this issue (CEO Water Mandate, OECD, and World Business Council for Sustainable Development).

Over the last few years – and in parallel with climate change – sustainable water use has been receiving more attention. In particular, water use in energy production has become an important issue. Therefore, utility companies need to measure their water footprints and identify hotspots where water scarcity is a potential issue and intervention may be required (reduction in water consumption, improvement of discharges quality, etc.).

The commitments of GDF SUEZ

In 2013, the Group defined rules and commitments regarding water management. They are based on four axes: the evolution of environmental reporting; the analysis of the water risk; measurement of the water footprint; and the visions of key actors, whether investors or international initiatives.

The Group is committed to seven actions, in keeping with the requirements set out by the CEO Water Mandate initiative (a UN Global Compact initiative):

  • To identify which sites are exposed to water risk and draw up local action plans for each one;
  • To draw up an action plan on water withdrawal and discharges for all the sites identified as being exposed to water stress;
  • To measure the water footprint of all activities;
  • To comply with local legislation;
  • To improve disclosure and transparency on the subject;
  • To help the improvement on water management and governance;
  • To respond to supplier-related water issues.

The water footprint

The water footprint is the starting point in understanding the impact of activities on water resources. It represents the quantity of water consumed by a site, its suppliers and infrastructure, weighted according to the site’s location and the water quality. Integrated with the lifecycle assessment, the results are provided in
liter equivalents, due to the application on the volume of water, characteristic factors for water quality and localization. Several methods exist today, and GDF SUEZ seeks to find the best one suited for energy activities.

In 2012 and 2013, the first step consisted of taking into account the water footprint in the lifecycle assessment of 1 kWh of electricity.

The water risk

Identification of industrial facilities located in water-stressed areas and determining the quantities of water withdrawn by source type are the first steps in defining the water risk. Once these two issues are identified for each site, it is possible to develop and implement adequate action plans where necessary.

For GDF SUEZ, just over 50 sites are located in areas of extreme water stress.

Good practice

The Water Resources Conservation in Brazil – Tractebel Energia

Photo: GDF Suez
Photo: GDF Suez

Aware of the importance of water conservation for sustainable development, Tractebel Energia launched a program for the Conservation of Water Sources in July 2011. The initiative brings together projects that have already been developed by plants operated by the company, as well as similar actions systematized in other
regions where Tractebel Energia operates.

The objectives of the program are as follows:

  • take effective action in water resource conservation;
  • maintain the quality and quantity of water in watersheds operated by Tractebel Energia plants;
  • encourage conservation practices in areas where the company operates;
  • encourage and educate the public about the rational use of water; and
  • engage the community to take action to preserve the environment in the regions where plants are operated.

To develop the project, Tractebel Energia signed an agreement with the public sector and the municipality of Chopinzinho in the state of Paraná in Brazil, located in the region of the Salto Santiago plant, which is rehabilitating about 300 existing sources of water in rural lands where children and adolescents live. The initiative aims to contribute toward an improvement in the quality of the water consumed by the community and thereby reduce the incidences of disease in children and adolescents caused by pathogens. To ensure the protection of water sources used by the farms, the areas near sources are isolated with concrete for protection and to prevent contamination of the water. Tractebel Energia has also donated about 2,000
plants species native to the project to help reforest the area. Families in the community are trained to participate in the rehabilitation process and the maintenance of resources. They also receive training about water quality and reforestation to implement these activities on their properties. In 2013, about 280 sources in the region were protected by the project.

In the area where the thermoelectric complex Jorge Lacerda is located, Tractebel Energia has been developing a project of source protection in the area of Capivari de Baixo since 2009. This has been achieved in partnership with the Watershed Committee of the Tubarão River and the lagoon complex of Santa Catarina in Brazil. The aim is to preserve the water quality of the Tubarão River, which provides the water supply for a population of about 360,000 people and is being degraded by different sources of pollution. Since the launch of the project, 21 sources have been protected through the construction of 4,000 meters of fencing and by planting 7,000 forest trees in 21 farms.

The Conservation of Water Sources project, developed by Tractebel Energia, won the Environmental Award from the Chamber of Commerce of France in 2013. Brazil is expanding their implementation to all facilities operated by Tractebel Energia in Brazil. A total of about 720 sources will be protected by the end of the deployment period in 2015.

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About the Author

About Engie

Engie (known as GDF Suez prior to April 2015 is a French multinational electric utility company, headquartered in La Défense, Courbevoie, which operates in the fields of electricity generation and distribution, natural gas, nuclear and renewable energy. The company is a component of the Euro Stoxx 50 stock market index.

Engie is a pioneer in nuclear energy in Europe with the development of the first pressurised water reactor built in Belgium. It is one of the few players in the sector to develop expert skills in both upstream (engineering, purchasing, operation, maintenance) and downstream (waste management, dismantling) activities. As a nuclear operator, ENGIE owns and operates seven reactors in Belgium through Electrabel, owns stakes in the Chooz and Tricastin plants in France (1,208 MW – the equivalent of one nuclear reactor) and has drawing rights in Germany.

The company, formed on 22 July 2008 by the merger of Gaz de France and Suez, traces its origins to the Universal Suez Canal Company founded in 1858 to construct the Suez Canal. Since the merger in 2008, the French state holds approximately a third of the company. It adopted the "Engie" name in April 2015 in order to emphasize the changing nature of its energy business and de-emphasize its historical role as a nationalized gas monopoly.

Source: Wikipedia

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect CSR Manager's editorial policy.
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