Despite India being resource-rich, hydro power is yet to contribute a commensurate share to its energy mix, accounting for only 13.2% of the installed generation capacity of 343,899 MW. The north-eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh best represents this scenario, having a mere 118 MW of installed capacity compared to a potential 50,000 MW.
Besides what this entails for a rapidly expanding economy, the underutilisation of resources denies the system hydro power’s advantage of starting and stopping generation faster than other conventional modes, which helps balance the transmission grid. This is especially important given the recent surge in solar and wind power generation, which can be uncertain and intermittent.
Since the sector was opened to private participation in 1991, just 3.2 GW (or 7% of the installed hydro capacity) has been commissioned by private players to date, with time and cost overruns coming in the way of investment. The sector is reeling under cost overruns of about `52,697 crore. Of the 37 hydro projects with 12,178 MW capacity under implementation, work at 16 plants with 5,190 MW capacity is stalled—mostly due to fund constraints. The largest among the stalled assets is the NHPC’s (formerly National Hydro Power Corporation) 2,000-MW Lower Subansiri project on the Assam-Arunachal border—protests by activists over project impact is behind the impasse. Lack of clear policy guidelines, long gestation periods, uncertain geological conditions and infrastructural challenges are the other factors impeding the sector’s growth. Read more
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