Exploration of the theoretical, financial, technical and sustainable hydropower generation potential in the Upper Indus basin

Sanita Dhaubanjar, Arthur Lutz, David Gernaat, Santosh Nepal, Saurav Pradhananga, Sonu Khanal, Arun B. Shrestha, Walter Immerzeel

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractAcademic


Hydropower investment decisions in the Upper Indus take a short-sighted approach based on energy generation potential at individual hydropower sites considering historical hydro-climatology. But hydropower will increasingly be affected in the future by changing climate and demands for water, energy and food – all heavily dependent on water resources availability. The seasonality and variability in runoff are changing. Anthropogenic water consumption may see a two to three fold increase by the end of the century with socio-economic development. Climate change and interlinkages with the water-energy-food nexus are emerging as primary stressors to land and water resources availability for hydropower in the Indus. Hence, we assess the extent of the challenges posed by climate change versus the nexus linkages on hydropower potential in the Upper Indus. Our sustainable hydropower exploration framework takes a systems approach to quantify theoretical, technical, economic and sustainable hydropower potential by successively considering the impact of natural, technical, financial, anthropogenic, environmental, and geo-hazard constrains on hydropower potential at both the individual site and the basin scales. The framework explicitly considers the water available for hydropower versus other nexus usages. We combine the framework with downscaled CMIP6 general circulation models and water consumption projections to compare current and future hydropower potential. Thus, we present hydropower development portfolios that are more robust under climate change and changes across the water-energy-food nexus. Future changes in climate and water demands will increase the need for a multi-sectoral approach in the identification of potential sites to achieve sustainable hydropower development. We present a basin-scale analysis of hydropower potential in the Upper Indus, now and in the future, considering growing demands for water, food and energy to fulfill the Sustainable Development Goals.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 26 Mar 2022


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