Dr. Vahid Alavian
“Energy, Water, and Climate:
Challenges and Opportunities in Africa”
Abstract: Two-thirds of the 930 million population of Sub-Sahara Africa lack access to energy. Demand is expected to increase rapidly as a result of accelerated economic growth and urbanization. While coal is Africa’s largest single source of energy today, it is losing significant ground to hydropower, given the vast endowment of water resources in the continent. As low-carbon energy cost falls, great opportunities are created for Africa to leap frog into a new era of renewable energy through hydropower, solar, geothermal and wind. However, the reality of hydrologic variability and climate change has and will continue to have a profound impact on the energy sector, and by extension other development sectors. In this presentation, Dr. Alavian will address the development challenges and opportunities in Africa at the nexus of water, energy, and climate. Examples of Africa’s renewable energy production options towards a low-carbon future will be shared against the landscape of climate variability, adaptation, and social and economic development. Moreover, policy, planning, and financing issues related to climate-smart energy and water infrastructure to reduce exposure risks and episodic shocks will be examined. Possible energy development trajectories through regional cooperation and power trade, together with associated investment needs are proposed.
Dr. Vahid Alavian: During a more than 35 year of professional career, Dr. Alavian worked with international financial institutions, governments, donor agencies, private sector, and academia. He led strategic and technical water and energy-related projects and programs including water resources management, hydropower, dam safety, and climate change in a number of developing countries. As the Water Advisor at the World Bank, Dr. Alavian provided strategic and technical oversight for the World Bank-financed investments across the globe. Some of his major work included advising on complex investments at the nexus of water and energy in Africa; leading technical and diplomatic negotiations in a cooperative effort among the Palestinian Authority, Israel, and Jordan as a part of advancing the peace process in the region; and an analytical and advisory study on the potential impact of climate change on the Bank’s water/energy investments and adaptation measures to make these investments climate-smart. He also led the water-related training and capacity building programs for Bank client countries through the World Bank Institute. Upon retirement from the World Bank in 2011, Dr. Alavian spent 3 years in Haifa, Israel, where he provided strategic and advisory voluntary services at the Bahá’í World Centre.
Prior to joining the World Bank, he served as the Senior Water Advisor at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Global Environment Center, where he helped advance sustainable management of freshwater and coastal resources in developing countries. Earlier, as a Senior Specialist at the Tennessee Valley Authority, he contributed to some of the agency’s pioneering work on integrating water, energy, and environmental management for sustainable development and growth, including early work on impact of climate change on the TVA system and operation.
Dr. Alavian has a Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is a Fulbright Scholar and held faculty positions at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and the University of Zambia, Lusaka, as well as adjunct positions at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and University of Alabama, Huntsville.