Dr. Praveen Saxena, Advisor, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) talks about the small hydro plants and renewable energy scenario in India.
What is the estimated potential of Small Hydro Power projects and what are their advantages?
MNRE has been vested with the responsibility of developing Small Hydro Power (SHP) projects up to 25 MW capacity. The SHP projects normally do not encounter the problems of deforestation and resettlement, associated with large hydel projects. Beside grid power, the SHP projects also have the potential to meet the power requirements of remote and isolated areas in a decentralised manner. The estimated potential for power generation from SHP projects is about 20,000 MW. During the 11th Plan, a capacity of 1419 MW was added from SHP projects. Setting up of SHP projects normally requires about 3-4 years depending upon size and location. Keeping in view the capacity of SHP projects currently under implementation and gestation period, a target of adding 1600 MW from small hydro has been fixed for the 12th Plan. So far, 999 small hydropower projects aggregating to 3803 MW have been set up and 253 projects of 895 MW are under development.
What initiatives has MNRE taken to promote SHP projects ?
MNRE has been providing financial support/subsidy for various activities to develop the SHP sector including research and development, capacity building, resource assessment, subsidy to State and private sector projects, as also for renovation and modernisation of old SHP projects in the State sector. Our aim is to double the current rate and take it to a capacity addition of 500 MW per year with total installed capacity of 5000 MW by the end of the 12th Plan. It is proposed to harness about 50 per cent of the SHP potential in the next 10 years.
How has the private sector responded to SHP projects ?
SHP projects are being set up both in the public and private sector. So far, 328 small hydropower projects aggregating to 1748 MW have been set up by the private sector. In the last year of the 11th Plan, a capacity addition of 352 MW was achieved from SHP projects and about 70 per cent of this came from the private sector. During the year 2012-13, there has been a dip in the capacity addition and only 236 MW was added. In the current year also so far only 170 MW has been added. There is a clear lack of interest in the private sector in setting up small hydro projects and this trend needs to be arrested.
What are the reasons behind the private sector´s lukewarm response?
The slow progress and lack of interest can be attributed to the increase in cost of projects, difficult project locations, short working season in hilly areas and involvement of private and forest land in setting up of SHP projects. The risks due to natural calamities are high and sometimes the developers face resistance from local residents.
What developments are taking place in other forms of power generation in India including non-conventional ones?
Renewable energy in India has witnessed a sea change in the last five years. There has been consistent increase in the pace of renewable energy development and the sector has grown at an annual rate of 22 per cent rising from about 3900 MW in 2002-03 to about 30,300 MW now. Wind energy continues to dominate India´s renewable energy industry, accounting for 70 per cent of installed capacity (20,500 MW), followed by small hydropower (3800 MW), biomass power (3900 MW) and solar power (2300 MW). These changes have occurred due to the tremendous changes in the government policy with accelerated and ambitious plans to increase the contribution of solar energy. For the first time perhaps, not only is there a perception that renewable energy can play a major role but also there is a confidence in the technologies and capacity to do so. The launching of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission symbolises both and indeed encapsulates the vision and ambition for the future. In addition, the launching of the Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) mechanism helps in the creation of a pan-India renewable energy market. Other significant achievements include the introduction of solar specific purchase obligations, launching of improved cook-stoves initiatives, initiating coordinated research and development activities in solar PV and thermal, second generation biofuels, hydrogen energy and fuel cells, etc.
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