Implications of shared socio-economic pathways for India’s long-term electricity generation and associated water demands

India’s current per capita electricity consumption is less than a quarter of the world average but is expected to grow significantly in the future. Shared socio-economic pathways (SSPs) are narratives visualising alternative futures of the world. Using five SSP narratives, develop alternative futures for India’s electricity generation sector for up to the end of the century. Then present an India-specific dataset on water withdrawal intensities across different electricity generation technologies as well as on the distribution of thermal power plants (TPPs) by cooling technology and dependence on freshwater/seawater. The withdrawal intensities are based on power plant-specific documents and other data sources, and use these to estimate India’s current and future electricity sector water withdrawals and consumption under the five SSPs. Analysis suggests that India’s electricity generation growth will be significantly different across SSPs, with the average annual growth rate varying from 4% to 7% per annum between 2015 and 2050, and from 0.7% to 1.4% per annum between 2050 and 2095, across scenarios. This growth, along with a varying electricity generation mix, will have significant implications for energy access and emissions from India’s electricity generation sector. Further, in the absence of dry cooling technology, water consumption by India’s electricity generation sector will grow by 4%–5.6% annually between 2015 and 2050, and will continue to increase across scenarios, putting additional pressure on the country’s water resources. Research shows that the Indian government’s draft notification on the power sector will lead to a significant decline in water withdrawals from TPPs in India, and dry cooling technology is
likely to become essential in addressing acute water scarcity in some parts of India.