Drought hits hydropower: Shows how unreliable is hydro in changing climate

India’s hydropower generation dropped by upto close to 20% compared to previous year in some of the months this year even as installed capacity of hydropower projects keeps climbing relentlessly. According to monthly generation figures from Central Electricity Authority, even as installed capacity of hydropower projects went up by 1516 MW in last one year, the power generation from hydropower projects dropped by 10.82%, 19.19%, 17.7% and 15.92% during February, March, April and May 2016 respectively at all India level, compared to the figures in the same months in 2015.

Power generation during Financial Year 2015-16 was 6.09% below the figure in 2014-15. Here it should be noted that power generation during 2014-15 itself was 4.16% lower than that in 2013-14, so if we compare with 2013-14, power generation in 2015-16 went down by a huge 10%. In absolute terms the reduction of power generation from 2013-14 to 2015-16 was 13475 Million Units or even if we assume the price at paltry Rs 3 per unit, the loss is Rs 4041 crores[i]. This calculation does not take into account the additional capacity of around 2300 MW added in these two years.

Regionally, hydropower projects of Western India (installed capacity of 7392 MW; power generation reduced by 39.29%, 45.26% and 42.35% in March, April and May 2016 respectively compared to the same a year back) and South India (Installed capacity of 11477.7 MW; 34.26%, 18.1% and 46.6%) have seen highest reduction. Northern Region with highest installed capacity among all regions, at 18320.27 MW saw power generation reduce by 6.43%, 14.73% and 7.22% in the three months of March, April and May 2016 respectively.

While reduction in power generation from hydropower projects during drought years is expected, the quantum of reduction, of upto 46% regionally and 20% nationally should be raising concerns, when the previous year generation had already seen a drop so we are comparing with lower base. Secondly, when there is such reduction year and year, the reliability of hydropower projects in comes into question since in changing climate, both droughts and floods are going to increase in frequency and intensity. Thirdly, even as USP of hydropower projects is touted as peaking power and when we are not even monitoring as to how much of power generation from hydro projects is during peaking hours, where is the case for adding more capacity for peaking power.

Here it should be noted that Union Power Minister recently declared that for the first time in history, India will be power surplus in 2016-17[ii] and will not need any additional power capacity for next three years. India’s renewable power (solar + wind = 42850 MW) installed capacity has already gone past the hydro installed capacity (42783 MW) on April 30, 2016[iii], and since the renewable installed capacity is increasing at much faster rate, hydro installed capacity is bound to remain at much lower level than renewable installed capacity for years to come. This when we have not started harnessing roof top solar power option with any seriousness as yet.

Globally too we have gone past the peak hydro period, as Peter Bosshard of International Rivers recently[iv] wrote: “According to the 2016 Renewable Capacity Statistics of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the world added 63 GW of wind and 47 GW of solar power in 2015. In comparison, only 22 GW of large hydropower capacity was added during the same year – down from 38 GW in 2013 and 32 GW in 2014… In 2015, a full $271 billion were invested in new wind and solar facilities, compared to $130 billion in fossil fuels and $23 billion in large hydropower.”

What this means is that globally, in 2015, hydropower added only a fifth of the installed capacity added through solar and wind, but as investments in solar and wind are rising much faster, they are eating into the available investments for hydro among others, so this trend of diminishing hydro capacity addition is only going to accentuate.

It is clear that case for large hydro is diminishing with every passing day, only if our decision makers were to wake upto this reality, as soon as possible and stop running after the destructive large hydro projects.

SANDRP (ht.sandrp@gmail.com)


[i] Green Peace says (http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/energy/power/water-scarcity-cost-power-firms-rs-2400-crore-revenue-loss/articleshow/52670534.cms) the thermal power projects in India suffered a loss of Rs 2400 crores due to water scarcity in this drought year. Hydro seems to have suffered much bigger loss.

[ii] http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/energy/power/for-the-first-time-in-history-india-will-not-have-power-deficit-situation-in-fy17/articleshow/52562666.cms

[iii] http://energy.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/renewable/capacity-for-renewable-energy-in-india-hits-42850-mw-surpasses-capacity-of-hydel-projects/52682253

[iv] https://www.internationalrivers.org/blogs/227/have-we-passed-the-era-of-peak-dam

3 thoughts on “Drought hits hydropower: Shows how unreliable is hydro in changing climate

  1. यह विश्लेषण एक अच्छा आइना है, पनबिजली के वर्तमान तौर – तरीके की तरफदारी करने वालों के लिए. लेखक को बधाई आपका अरुण


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