The Indus basin: untapped potential for long-term energy storage

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2021-07-20 16:00:08

IIASA models, tools, and data are developed in collaboration with partners to tackle challenges at global, regional, national, and sub-national levels.

Hydropower has massive potential as a source of clean electricity, and the Indus basin can be a key player in fulfilling long-term energy storage demands across Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. IIASA researchers explored the role the Indus basin could play to support global sustainable development.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the growth of hydropower plants worldwide is set to slow down this decade. This puts at risk the ambitions of countries across the globe aiming to reach net-zero emissions while ensuring reliable and affordable energy supplies for their citizens. Even so, there are thousands of dams planned to be built this next decade. New hydropower dams installed worldwide are forecasted to increase global hydroelectricity capacity from the current 1,200 gigawatt (GW) to around 1,700 GW. Many of these dams are being built in countries with emerging economies, such as those in the Balkan region, Ethiopia, and Pakistan. Hydropower is very important in reaching net zero goals, not only because of its ability to produce clean energy, but also because of its capabilities in terms of energy storage. The Indus basin, which stretches across parts of Afghanistan, China, India, and Pakistan, is one area with huge hydropower potential due to its high altitudes and large water availability.

According to Pakistan’s State of Industry Report, 100% of Pakistan’s hydropower already comes from the Indus basin, and much of the region’s potential has yet to be tapped into. Additionally, an investigation into medium sized hydropower projects in Pakistan revealed that the Indus basin is the region with the largest and cheapest seasonal energy storage potential.

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