By Sarita Barara
Hydropower generation is all set to pick up pace in Himachal Pradesh with significant changes in the hydro policy announced recently by the state government. Although small-hydro power (SHP) has been the mainstay of harnessing renewable energy in Himachal Pradesh, long-awaited clearances at various stages, local issues, escalating costs and uncertainty regarding financial viability have been ailing this segment. In many cases, clearances take up to 20 years, which has been putting off many developers. Many projects have stalled as there have been no bidders despite repeated advertisements. The changes made in the new policy are expected to revive the stalled projects and attract developers to invest in new projects.
The major changes include mandatory purchase by Himachal Pradesh State Electricity Board Limited (HPSEBL) of the entire power generated from projects with a capacity of up to 10 MW, commissioned after the notification issued in May 2018. The tariff will be determined by the Himachal Pradesh Electricity Regulatory Commission (HPERC) on the date of commissioning of the project and not the signing of the implementation agreement, provided the project is completed within the stipulated timeline. Deferring the 12 per cent free power for the first 12 years in the case of already allotted projects is another positive highlight of the policy. It also offers rationalisation of royalty rates for the allotment of new projects. Projects of up to 10 MW for captive use of power for existing or new industrial units within the state will be allocated without competitive bidding. Further, no wheeling charges/open access charges will be applicable for hydropower plants up to 25 MW capacity, thereby enabling them to sell power on competitive rates outside the state as well.
The state is also taking a number of initiatives in the solar power space. In order to promote solar rooftop projects, in June 2018, the state government announced a subsidy of Rs 4,000 for generating 1 kW of solar power, over and above the subsidy provided by the central government.
Ground-mounted solar power projects (grid connected) of 10 MW have been commissioned in the state on a commercial basis under the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy’s (MNRE) renewable purchase obligation scheme in the previous and current fiscal years. These include a 5 MW plant commissioned in 2018-19 at Nand in Solan district and a 1 MW project in Bhogpur Simblewala in Sirmour district. Another 4 MW of capacity was commissioned in 2017-18 at Johu in Hamirpur district. Two other plants of 2 MW at Jodia village in Una and a 5 MW plant near Naina Devi are under construction. Other projects aggregating 8 MW are awaiting clearances. For these, tariffs of Rs 5.25 to Rs 5.31 per unit were agreed upon under the power purchase agreement signed with HPSEBL.
Shimla and Hamirpur were declared solar cities by the MNRE and their master plans were approved in 2013-14. In Shimla, a 15 kWp solar power plant has been installed at the Panchayat Bhawan and a 20 kWp solar power plant installed at the old bus stop. Over 1,300 solar photovoltaic (PV) home lights have been provided to slum areas in the city. However, solarisation under the programme is yet to take off in Hamirpur.
Although Himachal Pradesh has set a target of installing 1,000 solar water pumping systems for irrigation, the scheme is yet to take off. As far as other sources of renewable energy are concerned, Himachal Pradesh is significantly behind. Now, waste-to-energy is an area that is being pursued, with more than half a dozen project proposals. Meanwhile, wind energy does not have much scope in Himachal Pradesh as the state has very low wind power density.
The main focus within the renewable energy space will be SHP as it still has a vast potential to be tapped, says Tarun Kapoor, additional chief secretary, multi-purpose projects and power, non-conventional energy sources, forest, environment, science and technology, Himachal Pradesh government.