Himachal Pradesh is India’s leading state in hydropower generation, accounting for approximately onefourth of the country’s total hydro generation. Across its five major river basins – Sutlej, Beas, Ravi, Chenab, and Yamuna – the state is endowed with a total hydro potential of 24,567 MW, of which 10,948 MW (45 per cent) has been commissioned so far. Meanwhile, projects with a cumulative capacity of 2,625 MW are under construction, a total allotted capacity of 9,165 MW is under clearance, and the remaining potential is being allocated. In terms of renewable energy sources other than hydro, Himachal Pradesh has the potential for about 34,111 MW of solar, 84 MW of wind, and 27 MW of biomass. The state has an inherent advantage in the development of pumped storage projects (PSPs), owing to its massive hydropower potential. With delays cropping up in development of large hydropower projects due to environmental clearance issues or financial aspects, it is important for the state to formulate policies that can not only address these risks but also take advantage of the opportunities presented by changing energy scenarios.
Policy push on green energy
In this scenario, Himachal Pradesh unveiled its Swaran Jayanti Energy Policy in January 2022, intending to add 10,000 MW of green energy capacity by 2030. The state’s focus is on completing under-construction hydro projects as early as possible, bringing under clearance projects to the construction stage, and allocating the remaining unallocated projects, as well as assigning higher priority to developing solar, wind and biomass potential. The following are the key objectives as mentioned in the policy.
- To ensure clean and green energy development through expeditious harnessing of the full energy potential, especially hydro and solar.
- To incorporate an additional 10,000 MW of green energy through hydro, solar and other green energy sources by 2030.
- To adopt a four-pronged strategy by way of participation of state, joint, central and private sectors for expeditious development of green energy sources.
- To achieve the status of total green energy state for Himachal Pradesh by switching from thermal/gas/nuclear to green sources of energy.
- To promote optimum adoption of appropriate IT tools, geographic information system technologies, and hydrological and meteorological data for precise planning and development of hydro and solar energy potential.
- To encourage retrofitting and creation of storage in existing projects through an enabling policy framework.
- To promote community ownership during implementation, operation and maintenance of hydro electric projects.
- To provide a policy framework for creation of hybrid projects.
- To provide a policy framework for PSPs on a stand-alone basis as well as in conjunction with the components of existing or under-execution projects.
- To develop an adequate and efficient transmission network in the state.
- To create a transmission master plan with the objective of facilitating planning and timely execution of hydro and solar projects.
- To create power evacuation infrastructure for upcoming projects in a time-bound manner.
- To create transmission infrastructure to cater to ancillary services requirements.
- To address the challenges in implementation of PSPs.
- To ensure grid stability through an independent monitoring/regulatory framework supported with timely creation of infrastructure and capacity in generation/ transmission/distribution.
- To ensure 24×7 reliable, quality energy supply to all consumers.
- To achieve single-digit aggregate technical and commercial losses by 2025.
- To improve consumer services in consonance with the Electricity Rules, 2020, and to ensure an expeditious grievance redressal system.
- To promote efficient demand/supplyside management through better forecasting management and deployment of tools such as time-of-day tariffs.
- To promote the introduction of a smart grid, smart prepayment meters and a smart distribution network.
- To ensure the availability of green energy to all consumers by 2030.
- To promote transparency, consistency and predictability in the regulatory approach, as well as renewable energy and renewable purchase obligation compliance.
The past decade has presented several challenges in the development of the state’s hydro sector, particularly in terms of environmental and social factors and an unfavourable investment scenario. Thus, this policy is a much-needed intervention to address these existing issues that are hampering the realisation of the state’s hydro potential. Moreover, the focus on other clean energy sources such as solar power, hybrid projects and PSPs is also an encouraging step, which will enable the state to diversify its energy mix and reduce its dependence on hydropower.
By Anusshka Duggal