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Huge expansions are planned in the hydropower sector to meet India’s soaring energy demand. However, energy studies project these investments in increasing capacity have led to diminishing returns over the past 11 years
India currently suffers from a huge power-supply deficit. Mammoth expansions have been planned across power segments—thermal, hydro, solar and wind—to plug this supply gap. However, data from an energy group shows that returns from huge hydropower projects have been coming down over the past 11 years.
According to an analysis made by the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People (SANDRP), the power energy generated from large hydropower projects has been falling continuously over the past 11 years. The fall from 1994-95 to 2009-10 is a huge 29.47%. The generation from hydropower has fallen from a peak 3.97 million units (MU) for the period 1994-95 to 2.8 MU in 2009-10. These figures are generation in MU per MW installed capacity. SANDRP is an informal network of organisations and individuals working on issues related with the water sector.
On the contrary, the installed capacity has increased from about 18,000 megawatts (MW) in 1989-90 to around 36,863.40MW in 2009-10. The research group states that installed capacity of large hydropower projects has increased at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.35% during 1995-2005, which is higher than all other power sub-sectors.
Commenting on the decline in hydropower generation, joint secretary, ministry of power, Sudhir Kumar, stated, “Hydropower generation is not declining, but in terms of percentage of total generation (all segments put together), it is going down.”
In addition, the study further states that 89% of the hydropower projects generate energy at below-design capacity. Around 50% of the under-performing projects are said to be generating power at below 50% of design capacity.
The group states that the following factors are responsible for poor hydropower generation: unviable projects, over-development, optimistic assumptions, siltation, inadequate renovation & modernisation and run-of-the-river projects.