Sucheta Dalal :Can hydropower help to plug peak demand?
Sucheta Dalal

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Can hydropower help to plug peak demand?  

April 28, 2010

Hydro-projects are generally planned for their ability to meet peak power demand. However, there is no definite data to support this perceived ability of these projects. In fact, evidence from a couple of current operational projects proves just the opposite.


On paper, power generation from hydro resources can be easily controlled compared to thermal- or gas-based projects for meeting peak power demand. However, on a megawatt generation comparison, hydropower projects generate lesser power than thermal- or gas-based projects.


Despite this fact, hydropower projects are being promoted on the basis that they will be able to meet peak demand.

According to the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) website, peak-hour deficit has increased from 11.9% in 2008-09 to 13.3% in 2009-10.


No study has yet been conducted on how much has hydropower generation contributed towards meeting peak power requirement.


“We have been asking the assessment of how much of the current hydropower generation is actually providing peaking power from the ministry of power and the CEA. They say that such an assessment has never been done,” said Himanshu Thakkar, from South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People (SANDRP), an entity involved in energy studies.


In addition, two instances indicate that hydro-projects are not meeting peak demand. In 2008, the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission had noted that projects like Nathpa Jhakri (1,500 MW) and Tehri (1,000 MW) were not generating peak power when they could have. Nathpa Jhakri is India’s largest hydropower project.


SANDRP states that most projects planned on various rivers will not be able to generate power during peak hours. Hydropower projects planned on the Sutlej, Ravi, Beas, Chenab, Bhagirathi, Alaknanda and Teesta basins are the ones likely to face this issue.


“A large number of run-of-the-river hydro projects cannot even claim to be in a position to generate peaking power, since they are so situated along the river that downstream projects often get water only during off-peak hours,” said SANDRP.


Among the projects that are already operational on the Sutlej river are the Pakra hydropower project and Jaypee Group’s Baspa–II power project.


SJVN’S Rampur (412MW) hydropower project, JP Power Ventures’ Karcham Wangtoo (100MW) hydropower project and NTPC’s Kol Dam (600MW) project are a few hydropower projects being planned along the Sutlej.


JP Power’s 400MW Vishnuprayag hydropower project is operational along the Alaknanda. A couple of other major projects are also planned on rivers Teesta and Ravi.


The peak power generation capacity of the Giri-Bata hydro project along the Giri river is also likely to be severely crippled with the construction of the Renuka Dam which is being developed to supply water to New Delhi.— Amritha Pillay

-- Sucheta Dalal