Hydro power plants facing the blues

Source: Business standard, Jul 04, 2012

New Delhi: At a time when coal supply constraints are keeping thermal power generation capacity under-utilised, hydropower producers, too, are facing the heat. Reservoir levels are down to 16 per cent from 27 per cent last year, setting the alarm bells ringing for hydropower generators. If rainfall fails, the situation could turn grim.

Some initial impact has already started appearing. In the Nathpa Jhakri hydro power station, run by Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd (SJVN), in Himachal Pradesh, low rains have already affected power generation.

“On an average, the discharge in the Satluj river, recorded in the first quarter this fiscal, has been 57 per cent less than the 2011-12 levels and 25 per cent less than 2010-11. Similarly, the power generation in the first quarter has been 26 per cent less than in 2011-12 and 16 per cent less in 2010-11,” a senior SJVN official told Business Standard. The power plant has an installed capacity of 1500 Mw.

In neighbouring Uttrakhand, however, the impact has not been very severe till now. A senior official of Tehri Hydroelectric Development Corp said there had been a marginal impact because of delayed monsoons. “Seeing the current scenario, we can’t come to any conclusion on whether the impact will be negligible or severe. If the monsoons are delayed by another 10-15 days, then maintaining reservoir level will be a problem.”

Currently, there is not much difference in the situation compared to last year, because monsoon has always been there, he added.

Data from the Central Water Commission for the week ended June 28 showed at present, water levels in 81 major reservoirs across the country were around 16 per cent of the live capacity at full reservoir level (FRL). The 10-year average water level during the same period is also estimated at 16 per cent of FRL. The live capacity at FRL, which is total water stored in the reservoirs when they are full to the brim, is estimated at 154.42 billion cubic metres.

The hydropower sector in India has not been growing, though its capacity addition has been good this time. Data from the Central Electricity Authority showed capacity addition stood at 60 Mw in May against a target of 35 Mw. However, there has been some dip in the electricity generation from hydro units, which stood at 9,995 million units (Mu) in May against a target of 10461 Mu.

In comparison, in May 2011, hydro capacity addition stood at 250 Mw against a target of 300 Mw, while the electricity generation in the month was 11,482.3 Mu against a target of 8,944.1 Mu.

Water levels in the major reservoirs across the country have dipped because southwest monsoon this year has been uneven so far across the country. Though most experts believe it is not unusual for water levels to fall during this time of the year, what is striking is levels now almost match their 10-year average.

Rains from June 1 have been 23 per cent below average, compared with a 10.7 per cent surplus in June 1-29 last year.

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