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India’s Hydro Capacity Set to Surge, Exceeding 50% Growth by 2031-32

Hydroelectric power projects with aggregate capacity of 15 GW are under construction in the country. The hydro capacity is likely to increase from 42 GW to 67 GW by 2031-32, marking an increase of more than half of present capacity.

The Indian Meteorological Department has predicted higher rainfall in the current financial year. Further, hydropower projects located in the Himalayan region get base flow from contribution of snowmelt, i.e., from surface runoff produced by melting snow; so, any rise in temperature will increase snowmelt contribution.

Moreover, given the ongoing energy transitions in the country, the development of Pumped Storage Projects (PSPs) assumes importance for providing greater inertia and balancing power to the grid. PSPs are also known as ‘the Water Battery’, which is an ideal complement to modern clean energy systems.

Currently, PSPs with aggregate capacity of 2.7 GW are under construction in the county and another 50 GW is under various stages of development. It is projected that PSP capacity shall increase from 4.7 GW to around 55 GW by 2031-32.

Why the Fall in Hydro Power Generation in 2023-24

The fall in hydro power generation in 2023-24 as compared to 2022-23 cannot be attributed solely to less rainfall. In the southern region, which contributes approximately 22% of the total hydro energy generated, low rainfall has indeed played a role. However, the hydroelectric power projects in Northern and Eastern regions, comprising over 60% of total hydro energy generation, have been severely impacted by natural disasters in 2023-24. In July 2023, Himachal Pradesh experienced flash floods, disrupting the operation of many power stations in the area. Besides, flash floods in the Eastern region in October 2023 have further hindered the operation of several hydro power stations, thus affecting the generation severely.

Hydrology of any river basin is variable and follows some period of alternate wet and dry spells. Lower rainfall in the past does not mean that the same type of the rainfall will necessarily occur in the future as well.

Potential for Replenishment of Capacity in Water Reservoirs

While the lightest rainfall since 2018 resulted in reduced water levels in a few reservoirs, the government is reasonably optimistic about the future.

The prediction by the IMD of good monsoon in FY 2024-25 suggests a potential reversal of the trend. This anticipated increase in rainfall could contribute to replenishment of reservoir capacities which were lost during the scarce rainfall in the previous year.

Further, the current downturn may be temporary rather than indicative of a long-term decline.

Contribution of Hydro to Power System

It is important to recognize that the country is in the midst of an energy transition, marked by significant additions of solar and wind power to the current energy mix. Further, power from solar energy is available during the time of the day that does not coincide with the peak power demand.

Hydroelectric power has always played a significant role in the energy landscape of the country, providing essential peaking support to the electricity grid, thus enhancing the reliability and resilience of the power system.

Share of Hydro in Total Energy Mix and Pace of Addition of Hydro Capacity

The development of hydro power projects has been marred by various issues such as natural calamities, geological surprises and contractual disputes, which have resulted in slower hydro capacity addition in recent years.

Nevertheless, aligning with the ambitious targets set forth by India in the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) under the COP Paris agreement, which are aimed at reducing emissions intensity of GDP by 45% from 2005 levels by the year 2030 and achieving 50% of installed electric power capacity from non-fossil-fuel sources by the year 2030, the government has adopted a proactive stance towards hydro power development, striving for accelerated progress.

Growth in India’s Renewable Energy Capacity

India’s renewable energy capacity has increased significantly in recent years. As on 30.11.2021, the installed Renewable Energy (RE) capacity of the country stood at 150.54 GW (solar: 48.55 GW, wind: 40.03 GW, Small hydro: 4.83 GW, Bio-power: 10.62 GW, Large Hydro: 46.51 GW) while its nuclear energy based installed capacity stood at 6.78 GW. This brings the total non-fossil-based installed energy capacity to 157.32 GW, which is 40.1% of the total installed electricity capacity of 392.01 GW at the time. Thus, India has overachieved its commitment made at COP 21 Paris Summit by achieving more than 40% of its installed power capacity from non-fossil fuels, almost nine years ahead of its commitment.

India is the only G20 country that has fulfilled all commitments it made in Paris on climate change.

Subsequent to this, India upgraded its commitments under Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in Glasgow COP26 and in August 2022 communicated its updated NDCs to UNFCCC, which includes:

  1. To put forward and further propagate a healthy and sustainable way of living based on traditions and values of conservation and moderation, including through a mass movement for ‘LIFE’– ‘Lifestyle for Environment’ as a key to combating climate change.
  2. To reduce Emissions Intensity of its GDP by 45 percent by 2030, from 2005 level.
  3. To achieve about 50 percent cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil-fuel-based energy resources by 2030, with the help of transfer of technology and low-cost international finance including from Green Climate Fund (GCF).

At the same time, India is targeting to achieve renewable energy capacity more than the committed capacity of 50% from non-fossil sources, by the year 2030. In order to meet 500 GW non-fossil fuel generation capacity, transmission plan has already been prepared and bids for renewable energy capacity have been finalized.

All-India Renewable Energy Generation (excluding Large Hydro) has increased steadily from 61.7 billion units in 2014-15 to 225.5 billion units in 2023-24 at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 15.47%.

Similarly, the growth in Renewable Energy Installed Capacity (excluding Large Hydro) has increased from 38.96 GW as on 31.03.2015 to 136.57 GW as on 29.02.2024, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 14.94%.

Also, the Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of All India Solar Power Generation from 2014-15 to 2023-24 is 42.97%.

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(Source: PIB)

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