Important excerpts from articles (with inputs) –


  • Arunanchal Pradesh government has begun scrapping hydro-power projects for non-performance. The government terminated 22 projects worth 3,800 MW while another 46 projects worth 8,000 MW had been served notices.
  • Community-managed mini hydroelectric projects as have gained prominence in north-east (Arunachal Pradesh) can be the way ahead. Over the years, though, the Khandu government has been inclined towards smaller, sustainable hydroelectric projects. The costs of construction and maintenance of huge dams is extremely high.
  • Non-performance of power developers (due to cost overruns, corporate inefficiency, resistance from locals etc.) is a problem.
  • Local tribal groups and environmentalists across Arunachal Pradesh and Assam – which fears a massive downstream effect (e.g. reservoir submergence) of the proposed dams have also resisted the plans.
  • Inter-state disputes over water sharing is also a challenge. The controversial Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada in Gujarat, which took more than five decades to be commissioned, illustrates the problems in building a large multipurpose dam — used for irrigation, drinking water and power generation — on a river shared by multiple states.


  • New hydroelectric policy aimed at boosting the sector including according large hydro projects the status of renewable energy projects. According to the new policy, large hydro projects will also be designated as renewable energy projects. So far, only smaller projects of less than 25 MW in capacity were categorised as renewable energy. With the removal of this distinction, large hydro projects will be included as a separate category under the non-solar renewable purchase obligation policy. Under this policy, power purchasers will have to source a portion of electricity from large hydro projects.
  • The hydro sector has natural problems that most of the projects are in areas that are undeveloped. They are difficult areas, with geological surprises, which results in higher costs and time delays. All this led to a higher per megawatt cost and so the hydro sector was not competitive.
  • The new policy had increased the debt repayment period for hydro projects to 18 years from the current 12 years with the provision to introduce an escalating tariff of 2%. One of the reasons for the higher costs used to be that the tenure of the loan was 12 years,” Mr. Singh said. “What used to happen was that the cost was higher during the tenure and then would fall drastically after that. We have spoken to the banks and in the policy we have said that the tenure of the loan will be extended to 18 years. The tariff to be fixed will be fixed keeping in the mind the tenure of the project on an escalating basis, so that it is affordable throughout the tenure.
  • Apart from that, the policy also provides for additional funds separately for infrastructure development as well as separate funds for the costs of flood moderation.
  • According to the government, India has a hydro-power potential of 1,45,320 MW, of which only about 45,400 MW has been utilised so far. Only about 10,000 MW of hydro-power has been added in the last 10 years. The share of hydro-power in the total generation capacity has declined from 50.36% in the 1960s to around 13% in 2018-19.


  • In 2008, growth in India’s installed hydel capacity outpaced the rise in total power capacity. But it has been a different story since. Hydropower has slowly faded from the discourse on the future of India’s energy security, as solar and wind projects garner much of the attention.
  • India’s installed hydro capacity at the end of 2018 was around 45,400 MW, an annual growth of just 1%, the lowest since 2009. What’s more, between 2008 and 2018, hydel power’s share of India’s total installed electricity capacity has halved from 25% to 13%. (In the same period, thermal power’s contribution has remained the same, at two-thirds, and that of renewables has more than doubled to a fifth.)
  • Beset by land acquisition troubles, uncertainty over final costs as well as estimated time for completion, and low tariffs, the hydel sector is unlikely to have a turnaround in the near future.
  • While hydropower is renewable, its social and environmental impact — from displacement of thousands of people and adverse effects on biodiversity as a result of dams, to methane emissions from the rotting vegetation in their reservoirs — means that big hydel projects are no longer hyphenated with solar, wind and biomass energy.
  • India has 4,500 MW of hydel projects with a capacity of less than 25 MW each.
  • Hydel power has advantages like its ability to meet peak demand and to balance supply to the grid. Building a hydel plant can cost Rs 7-9 crore per MW, compared with Rs 4.5-5 crore/MW for thermal power and Rs 3.5-4 crore/MW for solar energy. Hydel projects can also take around eight years to be completed, twice as long as thermal projects; solar plants can be up and running in 1.5-2 years.
  • Thanks to geological and hydrological surprises, time and cost overruns are not uncommon for hydro projects. So banks are wary of lending to such projects. “Banks are not comfortable lending for more than seven years.
  • This makes it tough, initially, for hydel power developers to compete with thermal and renewable power producers on tariff. But once a hydel project is completed, power becomes cheaper over time; and the lifespan of hydel plants runs into decades.
  • Sun at the Centre Now, solar is the centrepiece of the Centre’s plan for renewables. With the prices of solar panel plummeting over the past decade, solar tariffs have declined considerably, from Rs 18 per unit to Rs 2.44 in 2018. Of the government’s target of a renewable capacity of 1,75,000 MW by 2022, 1,00,000 MW is to come from solar power. India’s current renewable capacity is 74,000, of which more than a third is solar.
  • More participation of the private sector can be a boosting factor.
  • India also has to contend with opposition from downstream neighbours over projects on some rivers in the north and east. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May 2018 inaugurated NHPC’s 330 MW hydel plant on the Kishanganga, a tributary of the Jhelum, in Jammu & Kashmir, which Pakistan has raised objections to.
  • Because of its quick ramp-up time, hydel power could be used to support renewable energy which, because of lack of storage, may not be available during peak demand. Some believe the government’s impending policy on hydropower will iron out some of the sector’s nagging problems. Even so, getting private companies to take another bet on hydel power will be hard and capacity addition is bound to be glacial.


  • In India, large hydro projects have already been associated with some of the country’s worst floods, deforestation, and submerging of forest lands.
  • Far from generating clean electricity, large dams are potentially a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Even after construction, the functioning of large dams continue to pose a huge risk to life, and India has seen a number of dam disasters.
  • The proposal to treat all types of hydropower as renewable energy can be traced back to the 17th Report of the Standing Committee on Energy in 2016.
  • There is a shift across the world beyond the conventional categorisation of energy as “renewable” and “non-renewable”, and towards the deployment of terms such as “low-carbon”, “zero emission” and “green” to represent the normative aspirations about the kind of sustainable energy that should fuel our economies.
  • Help meet India’s goal of 175GW of renewable energy capacity by the year 2022 and to mitigate the grid instability arising from the variability of solar and wind-based energy.
  • We are witnessing changes in the nature and flow of rivers, due to changing climate patterns.
  • Climate change is exacerbating India’s water crisis in several different ways, including an erratic monsoon cycle. Water resources are becoming progressively scarce, and therefore, less dependable for generating electricity through large hydro.
  • large-scale damming of the Himalayas will cause the submerging of hundreds of square kilometres of forest, resulting in the loss of hundreds of species of fish, plants and vertebrates. In India, large hydro projects have already been associated with some of the country’s worst floods, deforestation, and submerging of forest lands. Large dams also cause sediments to become trapped instead of flowing freely, which has the dual effect of depriving the river downstream of nutrients, and causing eutrophication in the reservoir leading to ecosystem collapse.
  • Further, hydroelectric dams create artificial reservoirs where organic matter – prevented from flowing downstream — decomposes to release greenhouse gases (GHG). Far from generating clean electricity, large dams are potentially a significant source of GHG emissions.
  • Aside from the environmental impact of large hydro projects, their construction also leads to a huge displacement of people. As per a 2011 study, 16.4 million people have been displaced in India due to the construction of dams over a 50 year period.
  • the functioning of large dams continue to pose a huge risk to life, and India has seen a number of dam disasters: for example, through reservoir-induced seismic
  • Many countries, such as the United States of America, Brazil, China and Peru, are now actively taking steps to de-commission existing dams, or to abort plans for commissioning future dams.

Categories: POINT IAS

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