For various reasons, it is estimated that hydropower should ideally account for 40 per cent of the country’s installed power generation capacity. However, in India, the share of hydropower has seen a declining trend thanks to increasing focus on thermal power plants. Though India is stressing on other renewable forms of energy—mainly wind and solar, which are also clean forms of energy—there is a perceptible drop in the share of hydropower. Since hydropower plants can be started and shut down almost instantly, they are ideal to meet peak loads. In the Indian context, they also help in balancing regional loads. For example, in the monsoons, hydropower generation is at its maximum and there is also heavy load from the agricultural sector. Thus, hydropower creates much needed balancing of the peak load. Secondly, hydropower does not use any fossil fuel, mitigating the county’s carbon footprint.
Till around 1980, hydropower had a healthy share of around 40 per cent in the total installed power capacity. From thereon, there has been a consistent decline. By 1997-98, the share of hydropower had dropped to 24.8 per cent. It hovered in the band of 24-27 per cent till 2006-07, after which there has been a perceptible year-on-year drop. From its recent peak of 27.82 per cent in 2006-07, the share of hydropower dropped to an appalling 18.98 per cent by 2013-14.
It may be mentioned here that the total installed capacity here does not take into account renewable forms of energy (solar, wind, small hydropower, etc) that are out of the purview of the ministry of power. If accounted for, the share of hydropower will be even lower—at least from a mathematical standpoint. However, renewable energy sources—in terms of their zero carbon footprint—are comparable to hydropower plants.
It is also worth noting that coal-fired power plants of recent years use supercritical technology with large unit sizes like 660-mw, 800-mw, etc. Till the late 1990s, the average unit size of a coal-fired power plant was 250 mw. Hence, the average size of a modern thermal power plant has risen sharply. India is also pursuing ultra mega power plants with a view to achieve greater economies of scale. All this is leading to thermal power having a greater share in the country’s total installed capacity.
Year 1956 1961 1966 1974 1890 1985 1990 1997 2000 2005 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
per cent 34.86 41.49 45.68 41.80 40.02 33.96 28.77 24.84 24.63 27.00 25.62 24.21 22.26 20.17 18.98 Going by the progress of hydropower schemes under construction, it is expected that a very large quantum of hydropower capacity will come on stream during 2015-16 and 2016-17, the concluding years of the XII Plan period.
In 2015-16, India is hopeful of adding 4,176 mw of new hydropower capacity that would be the highest annual addition ever. This would be followed by an even more impressive 4,320 mw scheduled to come up in 2016-17. It is also worth observing that in the XII Plan period, the private sector is expected to contribute a significant 30 per cent to the