Hydro plays an important role in grid stability, says Neelav Samrat De, Asst General Manager (Marketing) - Andritz India Pvt Ltd as he expresses hope that the govt will consider including 25-100 MW capacity hydro-power projects under RE.
Neelav Samrat De, Asst. General Manager (Marketing) - Andritz India Pvt Ltd expresses hope that the government will consider including 25-100 MW capacity hydro-power projects under renewable energy, in an interview with Monica Chaturvedi Charna...
The government is planning to include large hydro under the ambit of renewable energy. What capacity projects would qualify for this and when do you see a policy being announced by the government?
There are about 4300 MW of small hydro schemes which are already covered under renewable energy. There have been talks at a policy level to include plants of up to 25 MW under the umbrella of MNRE. In addition, 6780 MW from small, mini and micro hydel schemes (<25 MW) have been assessed. Currently, there are hydro projects of approximately 7000 MW that may see an inclusion under this band.
We were expecting the hydro policy to be announced by the government in September 2016. However, it didn’t happen. Hopefully, with renewed interest for hydro-power, the policy could come into effect in the coming months.
What benefits would hydro companies enjoy if the policy is finalised? Also, do you expect resistance from environmentalists?
The hydro sector currently is in shambles. Just the thought of including 25 MW sized projects under renewable energy has created a stir among hydropower stake holders. This is primarily because of the government’s thrust on renewables energy. As we know, solar power has a challenging target of 100 GW capacity addition by 2022. This on-going impetus will positively affect the beleaguered hydro sector. Renewable energy, currently has a lot of incentivised schemes and activities. The inclusion of hydro schemes under this on-going thrust, would push hydro projects too. Moreover, large-scale hydro projects do not see a way ahead due to geo-political reasons, funding and other issues. A major way to see an impetus would be for hydro projects in the 25-100 MW range.
As far as environmentalists are concerned, they have always provided resistance to hydro-power development as hydro projects are site sensitive. Development of large-sized civil structures like dams, tunnels and powerhouses in green areas do pose a threat to wildlife and local habitats. A large number of hydro projects have been affected in the past due to resistance from environmentalists. So, we do not foresee any change on this front.
Elaborate on the transformation in India’s energy sector and what is the key ‘game-changer’?
Capacity addition in thermal and renewables has happened in the last 2-3 years. But, these are rollovers or spillages from the previous five year plans. Recently, we heard about the government’s keenness to develop 10,000 MW of hydro pumped storage schemes. This is a good step to tackle grid stability at a time when a major push is being given to the solar power segment. Renewable grid-connected power will need stability, which can be done with introduction of pumped storage plants (PSP). Hydro
also plays an important role in grid stability as it requires lesser time to shut down as compared to thermal plants.
Smart grids, that are being widely talked about will need a diverse energy mix to have stability. The stabilising factors will also need to be implemented and given importance. India plans to import power from Nepal and Bhutan through hydro projects, for projects that are already under construction. Why would a power surplus nation need more power? We also hear that the Minister of Power has asked energy public sector utilities (PSUs) and independent power producers (IPPs) to venture overseas as India does not require rapid capacity additions. Given these facts, I don’t think there is any major game-changer in action.
Given the ambitious power addition plans, how do you see the opportunities for your business?
On one hand, we say we are power surplus and on the other we have ambitious power addition plans. It’s a little contradictory in nature which we have to accept. However, on the positive side, the government is planning to add all hydro projects up to 25 MW under renewables. If this goes through as an amendment, the country could well plan for an ambitious renewable capacity addition of 225 GW by 2022. There is a huge hydro potential that is yet to be tapped in Uttaranchal, Himachal Pradesh, J&K and Arunachal Pradesh. Hopefully, the new hydro policy expected in October 2016, will address the development of such projects in the coming 5 year plan. In spite of the current state of the sector, we are confident that the worst is over.
We are also global leaders in the air pollution control sector of thermal plants. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEF and CC) has put a mandate on curbing emissions from polluting plants by 2019. This is a concern as environmental issues are at the forefront today. We are keen to address this market which has a business potential of over US $10 billion. Andritz Hydro continues to keep India as a strategically important market and we are committed to continue with our deliverance to our esteemed clients. We will stay as committed.
How is your company contributing to the transformation in the power sector?
Our company, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Andritz Hydro Austria, has two completely built state-ofthe-art manufacturing facilities in India. This is truly aligned to the Prime Minister’s Make in India initiative. The company has already executed and is executing projects totalling almost 21,000 MW in India and neighbouring countries. However, in spite of having such local capabilities, we are not able to have total capacity utilisation of our factories, because there are no new hydro projects coming up for development. While India is considered the company’s top priority hydro market, we do not see any positive yields in the sector.
What are the challenges that you are facing being a subsidiary of a foreign company?
There are numerous joint venture hydro projects totalling over 4,000-5,000 MW which the Government of India and the Royal Government of Bhutan have decided to jointly develop. Global companies such as ours however do not meet the qualifying criteria to bid in such projects simply because the focus is to safeguard the interest of a particular state-owned utility. This in itself defeats the ‘Make in India’ initiative. While we are keen to continue with our contribution to the growth of the country’s transforming power sector, we find ourselves in a very peculiar situation. We hope to see better days ahead.