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Achieving renewable energy targets to help India reduce water consumption

Reducing power sector water consumption intensity can be achieved by adding more solar PV and wind power projects into the co

T E NARASIMHAN  |  Chennai 

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At a time when the country is facing a severe water crisis, experts believe that if the Centre achieves its targets India could reduce its intensity by over 25 per cent. It may be noted that India is planning to add 227 GW of capacity by March 2022, which will make the country one of the top three countries making investments in the sector.

Tianyi Luo, Senior Manager, Water Risks & Data Analytics, Global Water Program at World Resources Institute said that World Resources Institute (WRI's) analysis shows that India could reduce its intensity by more than 25 per cent just by achieving its targets.

Almost 90 per cent of India's thermal power generation is dependent on fresh water for cooling. Reducing power sector intensity can be achieved by adding more solar PV and projects into the country's power mix.

Wind consumes zero water when generating electricity, and solar PV consumes very little. However, bio-mass, nuclear, and concentrated solar plants actually have higher water consumption intensity compared to traditional plants because of their generation efficiency. At the same time, it is also very important to consider their solar and potentials, grid systems, and the overall power market.

"If the "40/60" renewable energy development target proposed by the Government of India were successfully implemented, the water consumption intensity of India's power sector (hydro excluded) would decrease by as much as 25%. We came up those estimates by conducting scenario analysis using CEA's future power projections," said Luo.

While India has already proposed some ambitious renewable energy targets in its NDC, executing these plans successfully could still be challenging, especially as far as hydro power is concerned.

The institute has recommended to the Ministry of Power (GoI) to make it mandatory for power plants to start monitoring and disclosing water withdrawal and discharge data, leveraging its existing daily reporting system. They are trying to leverage satellite imagery, machine learning, and historical power generation data to evaluate countries' performance on water use by the power sector.

The widening gap between demand for water and its supply is estimated to reach a high of about 50 per cent by 2030 and plugging this will need an additional investment of about $291 billion, says an ASSOCHAM-PwC joint study.

This will mean that the additional funding required only to plug the demand-supply gap in 2030 is higher than the Government of India's 2016-17 budget, that is, Rs 20 trillion.

As against the requirement of 140 litres per capita per day, urban India receives only 105 litres of water on a per capita basis.

India's urban population is expected to reach close to 600 million by 2031, twice as much as in 2011. The number of metropolitan cities with a population of 1 million and above increased from 35 in 2001 to 50 in 2011 and is likely to increase further to 87 by 2031, said Kotak Securities.

These growing cities require around 740 billion cubic meters of water annually. This is likely to go up to 1,500 billion cubic meters in 2030. The scenario could be much better if the water consumed on power generation could be reduced by means of renewable energy.

First Published: Sun, June 10 2018. 12:19 IST