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Hydropower: A game changer in meeting peak power demand

Hydropower - A game changer in meeting peak power demand
At the outset of 21st century, hydel power was labelled as a sustainable and renewable alternative in comparison to the conventional sources used in India. Following which the then government chalked out a few ambitious plans for setting up hydroelectric plants, and the sector was opened up for the private sector players too.

The trend continued and in the year 2008, growth in installed hydro power capacity outpaced the rise witnessed in the total power capacity of India. But ten years down the line the year 2018 observed a slump in the growth of hydro power. Now India’s total installed hydro capacity stood at around 45,400 MW, which displays a meager annual growth rate of one per cent (1%).

Also a recent report suggests that beset by land acquisition troubles, uncertainty over final costs as well as estimated time for completion, and low tariffs, the hydel sector is unlikely to have a turnaround in the near future. However, NHPC is all set to hammer out the challenges subject to government approvals.

Knowing the key advantages of hydropower is important; this is what NHPC CMD Balraj Joshi has to say. He says: “Hydropower is ideal for maintaining of grid stability and reliability of power and thus 40 per cent share of hydropower in the total generation capacity is optimally required. It is also essential for meeting surge in power requirements because it has ability to start and stop quickly and instantaneous load acceptance/rejection which enhances system reliability and stability.

Keeping in view present 13.1 per cent share of hydropower in power mix, it is not easy to immediately achieve the optimum hydro: thermal mix, but with the support from government and proactive approach of hydropower developers it is quite possible to achieve the goal in phased manner.”

Talking further about the Government’s shift of focus towards increasing the share of renewable resources to meet out energy requirements, Shri Joshi added, “At present, emphasis is on using sustainable, renewable resources of power generation to meet the increasing demand for energy.

Hydropower is the best and dependable renewable energy technology which is presently commercially viable on a large scale. Hydropower is clean power and having very less generation of greenhouse gases compared to other conventional modes of power generation. It also enhances energy security of the country where there is deficit of energy and shortage to meet peak demand.”

Although to start with, it’s very difficult for a hydel power company to compete with thermal and other renewable power companies in terms of establishment cost. But once a hydro power project gets completed, the power being generated becomes economical over time. Not only this, the lifespan of a hydro power project is beyond half a century.

One may be aware that apart from NHPC, which is the largest hydro power producer in India and has 7,000 MW of operational capacity, a few state-owned companies are also working for the production of hydro power. Some of the prominent organizations involved in tapping of this resource are SJVN Ltd and North Eastern Electric Power Corporation. Also, a few private sector players in hydro power sector include Jaiprakash Power Ventures and JSW Energy.

A consultancy firm in its report recently said that though the numbers for hydropower look grim, this may be a case of the “darkest before dawn” for the sector. The best part is that even after so many challenges the Government is not putting brakes into the hydro power sector, rather it has reposed faith in NHPC and other affiliate agencies to work for growth. As of date, India is building around 37 hydel power projects.

On February 3, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for 624 MW Kiru Hydroelectric project and 850 Megawatt Ratle Hydro Electric project in Kishtwar, Jammu. Speaking on the occasion, the PM said, “New power projects in region will provide employment to youth.” He also declared 100 per cent electrification of households in the Jammu and Kashmir under SAUBHAGYA Scheme.

Hydropower development requires large scale cooperation from both central and state governments and other related organisations. The procedure for clearances needs to be simplified for speedy development and execution of projects.

The withdrawal of water cess may be done in order to keep tariff low. Hydropower development also requires strong support of state governments on issues such as land acquisition, relief and rehabilitation and law & order conditions. The cost of basic infrastructure facilities and security in the project area can also be shared by the states.

Further, the sector requires intervention of centre for resolution of inter-state disputes and the government should also augment flow of low cost institutional credit to the hydro sector. There is need for development of trained and skilled manpower for the segment. Provisions should also be increased for benefits to affected people in the downstream and catchment area.

Last but not the least following its quick turnaround quality, hydel power can be used to support the push on renewable energy, which because of lack of storage options, may not be available during peak hours. Also, the Government is trying to bring out some robust policies to develop the sector which will be able to salvage the hydro power sector’s unabating problems.

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