Small Hydro At Re-Invest 2020 Strives To Stay Relevant

Caught between low cost solar power and wind, and the huge displacement and other environmental concerns of large hydro projects, small hydro tends to get missed out by policy makers. Especially as most potential here is limited to the hill states of Himachal especially, besides Uttarahand and now, Arunachal Pradesh. At RE-Invest 2020 though, where a full session was dedicated to the issue. Especially when it could have a clear role in providing dependable power all through the day and night.

Moderated by Prof Arun Kumar, Professor, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee.

Mr Ram Prasad Dhital, Member, Planning & Monitoring, Regulatory and External Affairs, Electricity Regulatory Commission, Nepal  started off with the status of SHP in Nepal and expressed satisfaction  that almost 96% of electricity in Nepal is generated from hydro power, he also claimed that 86% of access to electricity comes from grid and 4% is from off grid. Despite the success of SHPs in Nepal he claimed that there are still some challenges faced which involves difficulty in competing with other cheaper and advanced RE technologies. One of the major problems he stated was that out of 626 HPPs (Hydro Power Projects) at different stages, 330 are small HPPs, reserving almost 6% of total capacity but despite of the majority these small HPPs are forced to compete with medium and large scale HPPs with same posted tariffs.

Mr P M Nanda, Sr Vice President, Greenko Group, highlighting  problems which small hydro power industries faces in India such as the varied profile of developer and the involvement of small scale consultants as there is no large  scale industry here. There is also absence of concrete strategy at planning stage which needs to be looked upon. He also stated the critical issues hampering the development of SHPs in India mainly due to high initial cost, long clearance process, higher infrastructure cost due to installations in remote locations, uncertain returns due to the long term SHP projects and social roadblocks before and during the projects.

Ms Eva Malicka, President, Polish Association for small Hydropower Development (TRMEW) focused her presentation on solutions to avoid decommissioning of existing SHPPs after the expiry of support period. The SHPPs with high levelized cost of energy may be desired due to functions they provide in certain region including contracting the effects of drafts, water management services, flexibility and distributed electricity generation providing benefits for the electricity grid and maintenance of state owned water facilities. She also proposed the mechanism needed to maintain operation of SHPPs after the support period such as adjusting the support mechanism period to the long lifetime of small hydropower plants, valuation of services provided by SHPPs and adequate remuneration for plants operators.

Mr R K Joshi, Chief Engineer, Department of Hydropower Department, Government of Arunachal Pradesh spoke about  opportunities available in AP  and state level policies such as the online application to generate ‘UIN’ for investors that enables the nodal department to follow up with line departments for clearances. There will also be a provision of ‘deemed’ clearance if the provided time is exceeded.

Other panellists also stressed on the need to update small hydro power projects policies. Mr Muddasir Nazir Mir, Director, Magpie Hydel Construction Operation Industries P. Ltd. also highlighted the same issues of policy paralysis in the long term projects and limited financial institutions.

Among the recommendations the panellists came up with, first and foremost is the development and implementation of a cost-effective tariff system, and a diversifed energy mix to enhance energy security through policy intervention recommended by Mr Dhital. Mr Mir recommended the involvement of stakeholders such as developers, investors, contractors, state and national organizations etc. before publishing the new policies, the additional charges levied like water charges etc should be abolished to provide a level playing field to the developers. The panellists were unanimous in their  view for the need for a proper mapping of upcoming projects along with the upgrade of transmission network particularly for receiving stations grids where power from the projects has to be evacuated.

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