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Research Studies

Energy-Water Nexus and Efficient Water Cooling Technologies for Thermal Power Plants in India: An Analysis within an Integrated Assessment Modelling Framework

Proposed by: Council on Energy, Environment and Water

India is increasingly facing water shortages. Agriculture is the largest consumer of water. However, water demand for cooling in thermal power plants is also increasing with high growth in power generation capacity. Cooling water is required for transferring waste heat generated in the power production process. There are mainly three different types of cooling technologies- once through, recirculating, and dry cooling. There are trade-offs between these technologies. The lesser the water withdrawal, the higher is the cost of the technology, as well as the efficiency penalty on power production. The proposed study seeks to understand if water could be a constraint to India’s energy and climate policy objectives: Following are the key objectives of the study –

  • To understand water consumption and withdrawals from India’s power generation sector under the reference scenario.

  • To understand the implications of water efficient technologies for water consumption and withdrawals for thermal cooling.

  • To understand the implications of water efficient technologies for power production.

  • To recommend policy interventions based on the insights from the research.

The Global Change Assessment Model, IIM Ahmedabad version (GCAM-IIM) will be used for our analysis. GCAM is a global energy-agriculture-emissions model that has been widely used in climate policy analysis. GCAM has a detailed power sector with representation of fossil and non-fossil power generation technologies. GCAM is a state of the art model and has been consistently used for IPCC related exercises, and has widely published and cited literature. GCAM runs till 2100 in five year time steps, and can model energy policies as well as climate policies like carbon markets and carbon taxes. Scenario analysis will be undertaken for analysing the research questions related to water energy nexus. Different scenarios will be modelled: Reference scenario, Climate Policy scenario, and Dry Cooling Technology scenario. GCAM is also being developed to incorporate a water supply module to understand water constraints on the energy and land use systems and this capability will be very useful for this project. Along with in-house capacity on GCAM-IIM, we will also engage closely with the Joint Global Change Research Institute (JGCRI, USA) where GCAM is developed and housed, for further capacity building on the model as and when required.


The study is highly relevant as it analyses India’s two critical ambitions, water security and energy security, within the same framework. Understanding the water-energy nexus for the power sector will inform India’s planning and policy formulation process and hence will be a useful value add to the NITI Aayog and Government of India.

Energy, Food and Water Nexus – analysis in a Macroeconomic consistency framework

Proposed by: IRADe

Higher economic growth would imply increasing and changing agricultural consumption patterns which in turn would imply a change in cropping pattern and therefore impacting the amount of water required for the agriculture sector to satisfy such a demand. At the same time, higher economic growth would imply increasing power generation also resulting in rising water demand for cooling requirements. Climate change is likely to affect Rainwater frequency, intensity and distribution. Thus, a sustainable economic growth path would require a sustainable use of water resources across sectors and by private households and this would require a model based analysis of projections water demand and supply.


The study by IRADe proposes to address this trade off by modelling the water and energy demand in agriculture, power sector in particular and there inter sectoral tradeoffs with the other sectors of the economy using the IRADe-IAM model. The IRADe-IAM model is an optimisation based macroeconomic model in an activity analysis framework. The model uses the Social accounting matrix for 2007-08 based on the Input-Output tables of 2007-08. The viability of this demand in the context of climate change is assessed by computing the availability of water to meet this demand using the GCAM model. The spatial distribution of water demand and availability is illustrated using GIS maps for generating various planning scenarios for decision making. The study aims to address the following –

  • To project the changing water requirement in to the future up to 2050 accounting for changing cropping patterns due to changing food consumption patterns

  • To project the water demand due to urbanization and growing cities

  • To incorporate the impact of climate change on water availability and hence increasing reliance on ground water irrigation

  • To assess the water requirement by industry and power generation technology wise

  • To assess the reduction in water, use due to water conservation policies for the power generation sectors

The deliverables for this project would be a report on the following topics –

  • Scenario on water requirement till 2050 under existing water use policies and trends

  • Scenario on water needs from Power and agriculture sectors due to optimized water use policies

  • Impact of climate change agenda on water availability and demand

  • Macroeconomic impacts of the above scenario on Growth, Consumption and sectoral developments

Research Study Assessment of Water foot prints of India’s Long-term Energy Scenarios

Proposed by: TERI

Water demand evolves over time, putting stress on energy-water-land system. In, India, in particular the Gangetic plains will emerge as one of the worst affected areas on the globe in terms of water shortage in the near to long term. Climate change mitigation policies, if not designed with careful attention to water resources, could increase the magnitude, spatial coverage and frequency of water deficits. The results challenge the general perception that mitigation, which aims at reducing warming, would directly alleviate water deficits in the future.


There are several critical issues related to water foot prints. In the context of our country, more than 70% of the water goes for agriculture; more than 50% area is irrigated by ground water; power subsidy has led to over exploitation, and many spatial blocks show excess use and lowering of water table etc. The Fossil-fuel based power plants account for the majority of water use in the power sector. More renewable energy for power would result in less water withdrawal which could potentially relieve the water scarcity situation in India, and shifts to water efficient technology foreseen in new Indian policies will reduce the relative impact of the power sector on water demand. But high levels of implementation of mitigation and adaptation policies are key factor in achieving this.


The Research study by TERI will focus on:

Assessing the water footprint of India’s long-term energy scenarios in energy demand and supply sectors as follows:

  • Demand sectors: (a)Agriculture, (b)Industries, (c) Buildings

  • Supply sectors: (a)Fossil based Power Generation, (b)coal washeries, (c)Nuclear power stations, (d)Renewable based bio-energy, (e)Oil & gas extraction including shale gas/oil development

  • Water requirement for shale gas development based on international experiences; assessing the water requirement in India especially in the sedimentary bearing geological areas for shale gas development per well wise.

The study will also investigate the potential for improving water efficiency in the sector and shall suggest various methods of efficient utilization of water in the above industries based on survey conducted by them and review of international literature.
The study will evaluate the regional water requirement as the country experiences significant variability in rainfall and water availability. They should also consider the central/state level future plan of development of industries region-wise while carrying out the study. The proposed study/survey shall also include at least three rich industry states in each of four regions of the country i.e. East, West, North & South (total 12 industry rich Sates).

Integrated Modelling Study of Energy-Water-Food Nexus in India

Proposed by: TERI

Energy models are critical in conducting analysis and developing policies on issues of interest to decision makers within the Government. There is a need for taking a regional and national perspective on energy-water issue which is ably supported with substantial research on energy-water- food and land interactions. This research has to be driven by both policy and planning considerations, using integrated multiple modelling tools and data across multiple disciplines. Food habits impinge on agriculture, climate change impacts water availability and such developments impact water models.


There is a need for integrating GIS Models for Energy-Water-Food Nexus of water stress and energy related activities for deeper understanding of the complex inter-linkages of water usages. Given the significantly more advanced methodology of data collection, there is a clear opportunity for Indian institutions to learn the best practices of generating data on water usage and availability.


The Research study by TERI will attempt to focus on:

  • Estimating the water consumption and water withdrawal in India in a BAU scenario using the TERI-MARKAL model for the time period 2001-2051.

  • To calculate the water consumption and water withdrawal in India in a low carbon growth (GHG mitigation) scenario using the TERI-MARKAL model for the period 2001-2051.

  • To calculate the water consumption and water withdrawal in India in a low water use intensity growth scenario using the TERI-MARKAL model for the time period 2001-2051.

  • To estimate India-specific water-use coefficients of the various existing as well as expected technologies base on secondary data and possible consultants with specific user groups.

  • To provide results for the inter-model comparison with modeling studies of other SGWG teams.

  • To suggest policy based actions, technological changes and possible solutions through a policy brief.

  • Dissemination of key findings to relevant Government Departments

Impact of Power Sector Growth on Water Resources

Proposed by: C-STEP

The Fossil-fuel based power plants account for the majority of water use in the power sector. More renewable energy for power would result in less water withdrawal which could potentially relieve the water scarcity situation in India, and shifts to water efficient technology foreseen in new Indian policies will reduce the relative impact of the power sector on water demand. But high levels of understanding of key issues are important to achieving this.


Our choices for what kind of power plants we build can contribute to freshwater supply stress by committing an imbalanced share of the available water to power plant use and can affect water quality, by increasing water temperatures to levels that harm local ecosystems. Population growth and rising demand for water also promise to worsen water stress in many regions of the country already under stress from power plant and other uses. The power plant portfolios of companies have widely varying water-use and carbon profiles. Utilities with lower-water plants place less stress on local water sources. Utilities with carbon intensive power plants contribute to long-term water stress by exacerbating climate change. Power plants are designed to last for decades, and much of our existing infrastructure will continue operating for years. As such, our nation’s precious freshwater resources will face ever more stress. The typically high cost of retrofitting power plants means that decisions on the water impact of today’s plants should consider the risks they pose to freshwater resources and energy reliability throughout their expected lifetime.


The Research study by C-STEP will attempt to focus on –

  • Assessing the impact of power sector growth on fresh and sea-water demand using systems optimisation model. Review available literature and assimilate data on the current and projected status of the power sector by 2050. Review available literature and policies on trends in water consumption and withdrawals in India’s power sector for thermal power plants (cooling and ash water requirements) and other non-conventional sources of power (such as solar); review secondary literature and datasets for water coefficients developed in other countries. Identify suitable water coefficients to model impact of the growth power sector, estimate the reliance on fresh water and sea water. Explore the role of cooling technologies on water demands reduction in the sector under a Business-as-Usual (BAU) scenario.

  • Model the growth of the power sector using the Integrated MARKAL-EFOM system (TIMES) model (a system optimisation model). Detailed technological profiles (plant level information, fuel characteristics and processes), cost curves and demand characteristics (linked to income, population and or other economic variables), and national and state policies will be used to obtain a future profile of fuel-wise installed capacity and electricity generation.

  • Model technology-wise water consumption and withdrawal based on finalised coefficients from literature review. Estimate the share of fresh-water and sea-water use, and the role of technologies. Submit a report or a policy brief on the exercise mentioned above with technical annexures to NITI Aayog which can be peer-reviewed by experts and other modelling groups. Provide periodic updated on modelling and data to NITI Aayog via webinars, conferences, seminars etc.

Development of Energy Information Portal for India 

Proposed by: Prayas

India is the third largest economy in the world and it would be good to follow a balanced growth model for energy market. While emphasizing on the need for an effective energy management in the country it is important to consider a range of issues, which has to be futuristic, that takes into account all possible policy angles and addresses the issue of energy security, access and affordability. Therefore, for an effective and robust energy policy we would need to rely heavily on rigorous analysis of rapidly available, reliable accurate and comprehensive energy data. Considering the scenario of Renewable Energy sector for which an ambitious target of 175 GW by 2022 has been set by the Government, there is hardly any quantitative or qualitative data and information that is available to the policy makers. A comprehensive Energy Data Management will be very useful for an effective citizen engagement business strategy management and performance of energy sector programmes. An institutional mechanism has to be put in place for an effective management of energy data system in the country.


Lack of accurate, comprehensive and consistent energy data in the public domain makes it difficult to analyze issues related to energy access, performance and efficiency, and increases investor risk. India is an investment destination with market dimension, therefore energy sector needs to be viewed from the market perspective to provide reliable and accurate data with real-time information. The need for a credible performance criterion which provides an on-line data, real time reporting with more efficient use of resources. Similarly, a comprehensive State wise data also has to be compiled and collected. Presently only MoSPI and NITI Aayog are in the process of generating the data. There is a widespread agreement that Energy data will help development agenda and needs to be promoted on the need for a nodal agency for data management system in the country.


Energy data related to the unorganized sector, consumption, access and latent demand either do not exist or are of poor quality with a long-time lag, and hence need special attention. Survey based data takes time. Anticipated technological, policy and regulatory changes in the electricity sector are expected to give rise to new challenges, but also open opportunities to improve Energy Data Management by leveraging internet and communication technologies. In addition, financial data on the energy sector, particularly debt related data, is neither available in one place nor in a timely manner.


Immediate improvements can be undertaken by data agencies within supply-side line Ministries/Departments that can help improve data gaps in the demand and supply side management. Sector-wise research questions that are relevant to development needs of the country should be articulated through a consultation process and data requirements should be based on these research questions. In addition, the distinction between data and analysis should be carefully deliberated. Best practices around the world should be used as benchmarks against which India’s Energy Data Management should be compared. The Research study by Paryas will attempt to focus on creating an energy information portal that will collate and report energy data at a national and state level, through a user-friendly and interactive web interface.