We launched The Global Clean Water Desalination Alliance at COP21, the United Nations’ climate change conference in Paris, December 2015. In the first week of existence we already had 100 members. So many industry partners, governments, and stakeholders immediately wanted to join, it was unbelievable.

We met with everyone who signed up, on the phone or in person, and constructed an agenda.

Signatories make a goodwill commitment to one or more of our aims. One is to supply desalination plants with clean energy. The second commitment is to make desalination plants more energy efficient. The third is to work on research and development, and the fourth commitment is to share knowledge across the globe. Certain companies have the perfect know-how, and others just don’t know, and that’s why so many plants see these problems.

We are still open to new entrants. We have financial institutions on board. The goal is that each participant contributes how they can, to make desalination reduce CO2. We have some very reputed leads on our four work streams, including the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, US, and the IDA.

At the IDA’s Reuse and Recycling conference in Nice, France, in September 2016, we are discussing barriers to renewables in desalination. We identified a hurdle: that tenders for desalination plants often don’t stipulate solar power. Countries’ water and energy agencies are typically separate, and a water plant is usually tendered by a water utility, which inserts a value for the cost of more expensive, because it pays off only if the electricity price is higher. This is what we want to discuss in Nice.

Two days later, we go to Climate Chance: Climate Actors World Summit, in Nantes, France. It’s a very international-driven summit to rally non-governmental stakeholders and to align them on climate issues. There we will present the alliance’s approach, our plans, and the roadmaps we are going to develop for the various countries, to give them a blueprint for transitioning their desalination sector to a more environmentally friendly one.

Then the big event for us is COP22, the United Nations’ climate change conference in Marrakesh, November 2016. We have secured a slot for a side event there, where we will present the progress of the work streams and the roadmaps. This complements our locally oriented activities in Abu Dhabi with a more internationally oriented alliance.

Dr Alexander Ritschel is head of technology at Masdar Clean Energy