NEW DELHI: The government is mulling to bring big hydropower plants under the ambit of renewable energy, giving the capital-intensive projects access to international funds and benefits available to green power, besides raising carbon-free generation of electricity as committed by India in UN climate talks.
Power industry experts see this as a shot in the arm for hydropower projects, which will not only get more capital but also find it easier to sell power as state power distribution companies are obliged to purchase some power from renewable sources.
The move, however, may face resistance from environmentalists who argue that though hydropower plants do not pollute the air, they impact fisheries by altering the natural course of rivers, cause flooding and emit green house gases due to submersion of plants. The Supreme Court had stalled work on 24 hydropower projects in Uttarakhand on allegations that they led to catastrophic floods in June 2013. The case is scheduled to be heard on Wednesday.
“There is no reason why hydropower should not be a part of clean energy while many developed western countries count on hydro. At least run-of-river plants that do not require dams should be part of renewable,” said a senior power ministry official. Another official said the proposal will have to be approved by the Union Cabinet as an entire wing of the power ministry will shift to the new and renewable energy ministry.
If the plan is approved, about 42 gigawatts of installed hydro power plants will get added to the country’s existing green energy portfolio of 37 GW, more than doubling the green portfolio of power generation to 28% from around 13% now.
There is a good case to broaden renewables to include carbon free generation, PwC leader (energy) Kameswara Rao said. “Large hydro in several European nations is already categorised as renewable. It will also place capital-intensive hydro favourably to secure financing flow anticipated post Paris.”
Association of Power Producers had last year written to the government seeking renewable energy status for hydropower projects. “For optimal load management, hydro needs to be around 40% of the energy mix. During the last three decades, hydro generation has deteriorated considerably. The introduction of hydro purchase obligation will help restore the balance,” said Ashok Khurana, director-general at Association of Power Producers.
The government had on October 1 last year submitted the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution to the UNFCCC, where it vowed to reduce carbon emissions intensity by 33-35% by 2030 from the 2005 level and achieve about 40% power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel-based energy resources.