The small hilly state of Himachal Pradesh is India’s hydropower hub, generating roughly one-fourth of the India’s total hydro energy. The state has a massive potential to generate about 24 GW of hydropower, of which less than 50 per cent has been tapped till date. Although many large hydro projects have been announced over the past few years, they have run into delays due to environmental clearance or financial issues. Given these issues and the erratic rainfall and snowfall patterns, the state’s high dependence on hydropower poses potential energy security concerns for the future. As such, it is important for the state to diversify its energy mix with other non-hydro renewable energy sources.
Himachal Pradesh has a total installed power capacity of 4,351 MW (as of February 2022), of which 3,069 MW comes from large hydro projects and 954 MW from small-hydro projects. This makes up 92 per cent of the state’s total power capacity. The remaining is contributed by thermal (214 MW) and solar power (76 MW).
The state has a significant non-hydro renewable power potential of 34,111 MW – 34,000 MW of solar, 84 MW of wind and 27 MW of biomass. While hydro has dominated so far, the scenario is now changing, with solar power reaching cost parity, affordable energy storage solutions emerging, an enabling market being created for rooftop solar and off-grid renewable energy, and central and state government initiatives being launched to promote renewables. The past few months have witnessed significant activity in the state’s small but upcoming solar power space, which presents a positive outlook for the future.
On the policy side, in January 2022, the Himachal Pradesh government approved the Swaran Jayanti Energy Policy, with the aim to add 10,000 MW of green energy capacity by 2030. The state is focused on accomplishing under-construction hydro projects as early as possible, bringing under-clearance projects to the construction stage, and allocating balance unallocated projects. The policy accorded high priority to solar, wind and biomass development to make Himachal Pradesh a total green energy state. The policy aims for a four-pronged strategy with participation of the state, joint, central and private sectors. Another objective is to develop an adequate transmission network for timely execution of hydro and solar power projects.
In another recent announcement, the state government has proposed to increase the subsidy for grid-connected rooftop solar power installations to encourage residential consumers to install solar power projects. The Himachal Pradesh Energy Development Agency (HIMURJA) plans to increase the subsidy from Rs 4,000 per kW to Rs 6,000 per kW. Further, the rates for installation of a rooftop solar power plant have also been fixed – Rs 50,000 per kW for a 1-3 kW rooftop solar plant and Rs 48,600 per kW for a 3-10 kW project. The state government is also exploring deployment of grid-connected rooftop solar systems at various health and education facilities. Further, off-grid solar power systems are proposed to be distributed to BPL families in the Pangi valley, Lahaul and Spiti.
Apart from these provisions, the state has a unique scheme to use solar power for keeping animals away from farms and fields. Under the Mukhya Mantri Khet Sanrakshan Yojana, incentives are being provided to set up solar power fences to prevent crop damage by animals and benefit farmers. This scheme will also promote solar power growth to some extent.
In December 2021, the Himachal Pradesh cabinet approved the draft electric vehicle (EV) policy to promote a sustainable transport system in the state, with battery EVs accounting for at least 15 per cent of the new vehicle registrations by 2025. Further, the government will provide incentives for the adoption of EVs, create a public charging station network and incentivise manufacturing in this space.
Tender and project announcements
A number of solar power projects are under development in Himachal Pradesh. While the majority of these projects are small-sized, there are two large solar parks under implementation. In March 2022, SJVN Limited won the contract for the development of a 400 MW solar park in Upper Kinnaur. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy has given in-principle approval for the development of this solar park under the government’s scheme for ultra mega renewable energy power parks. The preliminary survey and investigation for the solar park were completed by HIMURJA.
Along with this, SJVN Limited is already engaged in a detailed project report for the proposed 880 MW Kaza Solar Park in Himachal Pradesh. To ensure transmission availability, Power Grid Corporation of India Limited issued an expression of interest in January 2022 to conduct a detailed survey and soil investigation along the transmission line route to evacuate power from this solar park. The scope of work entails conducting a detailed survey, including route alignment, digital profiling, tower spotting, optimisation of locations, check survey, contouring, and soil investigation for transmission lines. Further, Himachal Pradesh is one of the states that will benefit from the recently approved Green Energy Corridor Phase II programme for intra-state transmission systems that aim to add approximately 10,750 ckt. km of transmission lines and 27,500 MVA of substation transformation capacity.
A slew of projects have been announced in the rooftop and off-grid solar projects space. For instance, in March 2022, HIMURJA invited empanelment tenders for the design, manufacture, supply, erection, testing and commissioning of grid-connected residential rooftop solar power plants in the state. The individual project capacity range would be between 1 kW and 500 kW, and the total capacity to be set up under this tender is 10 MW.
In February 2022, SJVN Limited secured a 15 MW grid-connected floating solar power project on a build-own-operate basis through e-reverse auction held by the Solar Energy Corporation of India. The said project will come up at Nangal pond, near village Neilla, Bilaspur, and is expected to generate 32.85 MUs in the first year. The cumulative energy generation over a period of 25 years will be approximately 756 MUs. The cost of developing this project is estimated at Rs 1 billion and SJVN has secured the project at the rate of Rs 3.26 per unit. It will supply power to the Bhakra Beas Management Board.
In December 2021, HIMURJA issued a request for proposals from Himachal-based enterprises to build ground-mounted solar installations in the state with capacities ranging from 250 kW to 1 MW. The scope of work comprises all stages of the project, from design through commissioning, as well as a feasibility survey and investigation. In the same month, the Punjab Energy Development Agency floated a tender for 18 MW of grid-connected solar power projects at four locations of the Bhakra Beas Management Board on a build-own-operate basis. Three of these proposed project sites are in Himachal Pradesh (two projects near the Pong Dam and one near the Bhakra Dam) and one in Punjab. According to the terms and conditions of the power purchase agreement, the winning bidder will be responsible for supplying power to the Bhakra Beas Management Board.
In May 2021, HIMURJA invited bids to develop 1,700 off-grid solar systems of 250 W capacity each on the premises of individual households in the tribal areas of the state. Developers are responsible for the design, engineering, manufacture, inspection, verification of the project site. They also have to carry out transportation up to the project site, loading and unloading, storage, erection, installation, commissioning, performance testing and distribution of solar systems to the respective beneficiaries. The estimated cost of the project is Rs 65 million. In the same month, the agency invited bids for the supply and installation of 20,000 solar street lighting systems in various villages, gram panchayats, and other agencies in the state.
Further, in this month, the Okaya Power Group commissioned a 100 kWp hybrid solar plant at its manufacturing unit in Baddi. This project consists of a 100 kWp solar plant, a 250 kW power conditioning system and 250 kWh of lithium-ion battery energy storage with a battery management system. The entire set-up is estimated to generate more than 144 MWh of energy annually, which will help Okaya to reduce its power consumption from the grid to 40 per cent and facilitate uninterrupted production.
Himachal Pradesh will continue to depend heavily on hydropower for the bulk of its power requirements in the years to come, especially since more such projects are under construction. However, to ensure sustainable power supply, improve power availability and light up the remotest regions, the state is increasingly adopting solar power solutions. If the two solar parks are timely completed, adequate hydro power capacity is added in the near future and rooftop and off-grid solar deployment continues at the same pace, Himachal Pradesh could indeed be successful in meeting 100 per cent of its power requirement from green energy.
By Khushboo Goyal