Unlocking the logjam
ndia is blessed with a large number of river basins that crisscross the country from mighty Himalayas to Southern Peninsula. The abundant availability of free flowing water makes India an ideal choice for hydroelectric projects. With exploitable hydropower potential pegged at nearly 1,50,000 mw, India is currently ranked fifth across the world in terms of usable potential. Assuming a 60 per cent plant load factor, that gives power generation of 90,000 mw.
Some of the basins that hold sizeable potential include Brahmaputra Basin (66,000 mw), Indus Basin (33,000 mw) and Ganga Basin (21,000 mw). Hydroelectric power generation is also environment friendly since it nonpolluting and essentially involves converting kinetic energy of flowing or falling water into electric energy. While electricity is evacuated and transmitted to consumers, the water flows back into the river.
IGiven that India is actively working on a strategy to cut down emission of harmful gases, the policy framework must focus on green capacity additions via hydropower development. Hydro power’s role in addressing energy security with minimal discharge in environment is based on three elements of sustainability, availability and affordability. Hydro power plants, for instance, provide clean power with no greenhouse gas emission while construction of dams contributes to flood control. Hydro power plants have a long economic life of over 40 years. Importantly, hydropower plants allow for quick increase or cut down in power production, thereby giving these units the flexibility to address demand fluctuation. This aspect of quick start/stop of hydropower is also important in managing grid operations when contribution of electricity from non-conventional renewable sources like solar or wind becomes significant. With such inherent advantages and huge potential, hydroelectric power generation in India needs to be reinvigorated in a meaningful manner. According to the latest data on power generation, the installed capacity of hydropower is around 46,000 mw including small hydro projects. This is less than 17 per cent of India’s total installed capacity of 2,76,000 mw. This is also just 31 per cent of the exploitable hydropower potential of 1,50,000 mw. As far as the region wise split is concerned, most of the potential has been harnessed in southern and western