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Hydro power, not to be lost in the crowd

A quick analysis on our ‘all time savior’ hydro power sector. Where India’s hydro stand amidst the booming solar and wind sector.

Though hydropower is one of the major revenue-generating sectors in India, it has witnessed a growth fall in the past couple of years with no new investments, a weak hydro policy, and more focus on the other renewable energy sectors. Most of the areas of hydro energy potential is yet to be tapped, as lack of clearances and no fresh funds have stalled the development of the sector.

Drying up of river resources
For nearly 150 years, water has been used to generate electricity, powering around 70 per cent of the world’s renewable electricity, and more than 15 per cent of the world’s total power supply. Globally, climate change has resulted into calamities such as severe droughts and drying up of reservoirs. Ashok Sethi, COO & ED, Tata Power says, “The climate variations occurred over past six decades has affected the generation process of India’s top seven hydropower projects. These variations are likely to hit reservoir operations for power generation from these projects.”

Hydro projects are not the answer to the India’s clean energy
As per a recent report by Central Electricity Authority (CEA), currently, the hydropower sector accounts for about 13 per cent (45,399.22 MW) of India’s total installed power capacity (thermal, nuclear, hydro and renewables) of 349,288.22 MW. India is building 37 hydel power projects with a capacity of over 12,000 MW, of which 16 projects with a capacity of nearly 6,000 MW are stalled due to a variety of reasons, from lack of funds to environmental concerns. Sethi says, “It is important to consider the overall effects that hydropower projects will have on the environment as more power from hydro projects means less dependence on fossil fuel based power plants, which emit pollutants to the environment. However, with a slow streamline process of environment and forest clearances, it is difficult to witness a positive turnaround for the hydel sector in the near future.”

Hope still persists
Hydropower is a green and renewable energy.K Ramanathan, Distinguished Fellow, TERI says, “Besides contributing to reduce the fossil fuel share, it can by virtue of its inherent flexibility and grid friendly features, help in increased absorption of solar and wind (by way of providing balancing power and contributing to grid stability). Government of India is trying to give a push to hydropower for these very reasons.”

India’s energy demand is going to increase rapidly in the coming decades. To fulfil the demand of industrial and residential loads, India must utilise the available energy source. Sethi says, “With energy demand of the country increases very rapidly, and other renewable sources must be utilised to meet the energy demand within few months or few years. But, the development of hydro power plants must not stop, as they are the most reliable renewable energy source.”

China’s hydropower
China pivots to renewable energy to reduce its greenhouse emissions and fight pollution, as per reports, hydropower continues to be the foundation of its renewable energy industry. According to the National Energy Administration, at the end of 2018, China’s hydropower installed capacity was about 350 million kilowatts, and its annual power generation was about 1.2 trillion kilowatt hours, both ranking first in the world. As hydropower is increasingly marketised, it delivers greater economic, social and environmental value. It has also embarked upon a sound, sustainable development path within existing policies.
The climate variations are likely to hit reservoir operations for power generation from these projects
Ashok Sethi, COO & ED, Tata Power

Hydropower, by virtue of its inherent flexibility and grid friendly features, help in increased absorption of solar and wind
K Ramanathan, Distinguished Fellow, TERI

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