For many countries experiencing rapid growth in demand for energy, water and other infrastructure services, one of the primary long-term challenges is how to coordinate these near-term infrastructure and related investments with long-term sustainability goals. Meeting the near-term needs of society through infrastructure investments is critical, but often biases investment decisions with equally near-term technology and organizational choices. This is very understandable, when it comes to the need to “catch up.” However, this risks so-called “lock-in” with current technology systems that may soon be obsolete as technologies, both individually and in combination, evolve in both cost and performance. Such are the numerous challenges facing the Saudi water and energy sectors today. Separate water and energy strategies will likely be inferior to strategies that look at the synergies among the supply and demand for electricity and fuels, and water for homes, businesses and agriculture. Equally important is the need to look at the relevant robustness and flexibility of combined water and energy infrastructures. As the Kingdom undertakes its plans to reduce the domestic use of oil and gas for providing electricity and water, there are significant operational constraints, as well as strategic opportunities.
The overall goal for continuing our SIPS effort is to create, document, and apply a mature template for future integrated decision- making for sustainable infrastructure systems worldwide. The purpose of the project is to develop a decision support system that addresses sustainability challenges in development and improves decision making when it comes to current and future coupled infrastructure decisions. The three specific objectives of the SIPS project are as follows: (1) further explore infrastructure interactions with human and natural capital. (2) Conduct experiments with collaborative decision-making simulations/ games and tools to better understand their impacts on sustainability decision-making. (3) Applying tools to problems of stakeholder interest. SIPS will integrate and enhance current modeling platforms as it develops novel scenarios regarding Saudi infrastructure and other investments. Often overlooked, but of key interest to SIPS, are investments in power and water networks.
The SIPS project uses the concept of wealth, also called inclusive or comprehensive wealth, to frame its analyses of the impact of infrastructure decisions on sustainability. Wealth is a measure of an economy's productive base, and it is tightly related to the concept of intergenerational wellbeing. The overall goal of the SIPS 2 project is to create an integrated modeling and simulation environment that focuses on the coupled decisions in complex infrastructure systems and that can be used to set improved development targets that take into account the couplings amongst research types and domains. We use the comprehensive wealth framework as an integrative and unifying framework for all of the individual models and analyses. Using the “Comprehensive Wealth” structure as an integrating framework, the Sustainable Infrastructure Planning System (SIPS) Project is looking at numerous detailed energy and water strategies for Saudi Arabia, with the goal of evaluating different alternatives for managing the supply and demand of these services over the long-term.