Hydropower is energy derived from flowing water. More than 2,000
years ago, the ancient Greeks used waterpower to run wheels for grinding grain;
today it is among the most cost-effective means of generating electricity and
is often the preferred method where available. In Norway, for example, 99% of
electricity comes from hydropower. The world’s largest hydropower plant is the
22.5 gigawatt Three Gorges Dam in China. It produces 80 to 100 terawatt-hours
per year, enough to supply between 70 million and 80 million households.
In the context of energy transition , renewable energy is going to be the primary source of electricity supply replacing fossil fuel based energy. Hydropower as a
renewable energy is significantly different from solar and wind power on
account of higher plant load factor, ability to support grid and energy storage
ability. However Hydropower has had its own challenges with respect to
environmental and social factors involved.
India is blessed with significant amount of Hydropower potential
in the Himalayas where glacier fed rivers traverse more than 2000 metres of
elevation difference between the upper reaches of the river and the lower
reaches. J&K , Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand , Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh
are considered Hydropower powerhouse for India , with a potential peaking
capacity of 100000 MW power. However, Arunachal Pradesh alone accounts for more
than 50000 MW of peak hydropower capacity potential. Arunachal Pradesh is
blessed with high rainfall and mighty rivers which constitute the Brahmaputra
Progress of Development of Hydropower in Arunachal Pradesh between 1990-2019
Due to logistics constraints , hydropower development in Arunachal Pradesh prior to 1990 was rather insignificant.
405 MW Ranganadi Project (renamed as Panyor Lower HEP) was the first major hydroelectric project to be initiated in Lower Subansiri District of Arunachal Pradesh. The Project construction activities were started in 1988 and project was commissioned in 2002.
From 2000 onwards, government of India initiated new projects such as 600 MW Kameng HEP , 2000 MW Subansiri Lower HEP and 110 MW Pare HEP. While , Kameng HEP and Pare HEP have been commissioned, the Subansiri Lower HEP is about to be commissioned in 2024.
Government of India took major initiative in 2004 in preparing the prefeasibility reports of about 100 projects in Arunachal Pradesh, totalling about 40000 MW.
With the liberalisation of power sector and introduction of Indian Electricity Act 2003, Government of Arunachal Pradesh allotted more than 40 projects (of capacity more than 100 MW) with combined installed capacity of 37000 MW. Most of these projects during 2005-2010 were allotted to private sector companies for development on BOOT basis.
However , regulatory processes, political and social acceptance , lack of capital, unattractive power market , connectivity issues , infrastructure issues and lack of power evacuation arrangements had a combined effect , which resulted in non-start of most of the projects allotted to private sector.
During the period 2014-19 , there was a major investment primarily from private sector in solar power development. Till March 2023, about 67000 MW solar power capacity has been added in India.
During this period, new hydropower development took a back seat in most parts of India and more particularly in Arunachal Pradesh.
As a parallel process , during period from 2014 onwards , there has been
a great boost to physical and internet connectivity in Arunachal Pradesh. New National Highways, Bridges, Rural Roads and air connectivity have been impressively added which has resulted in mainstreaming of Arunachal Pradesh in Infrastructure availability.
- Developments from 2019 onwards
Subsequently, the Government of India issued measures to promote Hydro Power Sector on 8th March, 2019 under which the following provisions have been made:-
(i) Declaring Large Hydro Projects (>25 MW) as Renewable Energy source.
(ii) Tariff rationalization measures for bringing down hydropower tariff.
(iii) Budgetary Support for Flood Moderation/ Storage Hydro Electric Projects (HEPs).
(iv) Budgetary Support to Cost of Enabling Infrastructure i.e., roads/bridges.
Subsequently, the Hydro Purchase Obligation (HPO) trajectory, for the period 2021-22 to 2029-30 has also been notified by the Government on 29.01.2021.
It has been realised that private sector investment in Hydropower sector in India is not coming up due to several issues such as long gestation period, high capital requirement , geological issues, environmental and social issues and not so good experience of private sector development in the last twenty years.
Therefore , Central government and Government of Arunachal Pradesh took joint decision to take back the stalled and uninitiated projects from private developers. Subsequently , these projects have been allotted to four major power sector CPSUs mainly NHPC, SJVN. NEEPCO and THDC.
Brief breakup of these projects is as below:
|· Subansiri Basin Projects – 10000 MW
|· Dibang Basin Projects – 10000 MW
|· Lohit Basin Projects – 10000 MW
|· Siang Basin Projects – 20000 MW
It may be noted that basin studies carried out by MOEF for the above basins have endorsed most of the projects already identified in PFR.
Several of these projects are at PFR/DPR stage and processes such as CEA’s concurrence , environmental clearance , forest clearance and land acquisition processes are yet to be completed. It normally takes atleast three years to obtain all the required regulatory approvals and making financial tie-ups. Several of these projects will come into construction from 2027 onwards.
- Forward Outlook
It is presumed that central CPSUs will take proactive lead in developing these identified projects. However , it may take atleast two decades to still realise the commissioning of all these projects, although it is possible that about 50% of these capacity is realised in next Ten years.
On completion of these projects , Arunachal Pradesh Hydropower alone will constitute 50% of Hydropower of India as a whole. Total budget requirement of 50000MW development is estimated to 7,50000 crores.
Imagine this expenditure happening over next two decades. This translates to 37500 crore per annum. Most of this investment is going to come from Centre through Central PSUs as discussed above. These CPSUs have at least 3 decades of successful track record of developing responsible Hydropower with focus of development, technology, safety, environment. Hydropower development model is cost plus which is going to remain in vogue as any other model has been found not working.
The hydropower development in Arunachal Pradesh will have to overcome the current shortage of trained manpower in hydropower sector. Also it will be required to skilfully address environmental and social sensitivities of Arunachal Pradesh.