The state-run UJVN Limited was set up in 2001 to enable Uttarakhand to meet its power requirements through the development of new hydropower projects, as well as for the renovation, modernisation and upgradation of the existing hydro assets in the state. Called Uttaranchal Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited at the time of inception, it was renamed Uttarakhand Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited in 2007 when the state’s name was changed. Then, in 2011, it diversified its operations to include development, takeover, and operations and maintenance (O&M) of both conventional and non-conventional sources of energy, and was renamed UJVN Limited.
According to the company’s business plan for the fourth control period (2022-23 to 2024-25), which was submitted to the state electricity regulatory commission in November 2021, UJVN Limited has an installed capacity of 1,323 MW. This comprises 1,296 MW of hydropower and 27 MW solar power. As per its annual report published in 2021, UJVN Limited generated close to 4,800 MUs of power in 2020-21 from its various clean energy projects.
UJVN Limited operates 17 hydropower projects ranging in capacity from 1.5 MW to 304 MW, comprising seven small-hydro projects (SHPs) and 10 large capacity projects. Interestingly, only five of its hydropower projects have been commissioned over the last three decades. The remaining projects are very old, and most are at the end of their project lifetime. The oldest is the 3.5 MW Galogi SHP, which was commissioned in 1907. However, the company has roughly 1,421 MW of hydropower projects, both large and small, under planning and implementation, which will help address this drawback.
Focus on small hydro
Over the past few years, the pace of hydropower development has slowed owing to complicated and lengthy approval procedures, the capital-intensive nature of such projects, long gestation times, and various environmental, land, transmission and weather-related bottlenecks. It is believed by many environmentalists that the dams and barrages constructed for large hydropower plants disturb the natural flow of rivers and increase siltation, contributing to floods. In fact, in June 2013, Uttarakhand witnessed one of its worst floods in decades, whereby a large part of the state was devastated, and many experts cited unchecked hydropower development with poor building practices as one of the reasons for this calamity. Thus, it is important to ensure balanced growth in hydropower development with proper protocol followed for granting of forest clearances, debris disposal, feasibility and geological studies, and penalisation in case of violations.
SHPs, on the other hand, can avoid many of the issues associated with large hydropower projects such as deforestation and displacement caused by the building of dams. Thus, SHPs are often considered a more suitable option for hydropower generation, especially as deploying them takes only three to four years depending on their size and location. Moreover, they are quite beneficial in providing stable and affordable power to remote hilly regions in states such as Uttarakhand without impacting the local ecology.
For these reasons, the Uttarakhand government has been focusing on SHP development, and UJVN Limited is the nodal agency for SHPs ranging from 2 MW to 25 MW in the state. The company has an installed SHP capacity of roughly 44 MW. The most recent project set up by UJVN Limited is the 4 MW Kaliganga-I, built as a run-of-the-river project on the Kaliganga river in the Ukhimath tehsil of Rudraprayag district. It has two turbine units of 2 MW each. The project’s levellised cost of generation is Rs 4.53 for 35 years considering a discount factor of 10 per cent. Prior to this, UJVN Limited had commissioned the 1.5 MW Dunao SHP in 2017. The project, with two turbines of 750 kW each, is located in Pauri Garhwal and is built over a hilly stream called Purvi Nayar, which is a tributary of the Ganga river.
Apart from the already installed SHP capacity, UJVN Limited has about 126 MW of SHPs at various stages of planning and implementation. The largest of these are the Bhilangana II-A and Bhilangana II-B projects, with an estimated capacity of 24 MW each. These projects are coming up on the Bhilangana river in Tehri district. The Bhilangana II-A project is expected to be completed by March 2026, while the detailed project report for the Bhilangana II-B project is being prepared. In addition to these projects, as the nodal agency for SHP development in Uttarakhand, UJVN Limited also invites bids for the development of projects on a build-own-operate-transfer basis. For instance, in early 2019, UJVN Limited invited request for quotation (RfQ)-cum-request for proposal (RfP) bids for the development of a 5 MW SHP in Pokhar, Uttarakhand. The scope of work included financing, designing, engineering, construction and O&M of the plant. Around the same time, UJVN Limited invited RfQ-cum-RfP bids for the 14 MW Kamtoli SHP, 15 MW Muwani SHP and 11.1 MW Seraghat SHP. The scope of work included design and engineering, construction, financing, land lease agreement and O&M of the projects.
Uptake of solar power
Along with hydropower development, UJVN Limited is exploring other clean energy sources to diversify its energy mix. With solar power becoming quite competitive and easy to deploy, it is a logical choice for UJVN Limited for meeting its captive power requirements across its many facilities. Thus, the company has deployed various solar power projects in the range of 0.1-7.5 MW at its various offices and power stations. It has roughly 600 kWp of rooftop solar, 5.86 MW of ground-mounted solar, 19 MW of canal bank solar and 1 MW of canal-top solar projects. Its largest solar projects till date include the 7.5 MW and 7 MW grid-connected canal bank solar projects set up near the Dhalipur power house and Dhakrani power house respectively. Both these projects were commissioned in March 2017.
Going forward, UJVN Limited will continue deploying various solar power projects across its facilities. It has plans to install around 112 MW of total additional solar capacity by 2025-26. This will include, as is the case now, a mix of rooftop solar, ground-mounted solar and canal-based solar. However, the size of certain planned projects is significantly larger than the solar power projects currently being installed by the company. For instance, a 18 MW canal-top solar project is planned to be installed by 2024-25 at the power channel between the Dakpathar Barrage and Kulhal hydropower project. An even larger 72.85 MW canal-top solar project is planned at the Chilla power channel, to be completed by 2025-26. In addition, UJVN Limited was actively exploring bagasse-based cogeneration in sugar mills, with plans to set up two large facilities – a 16 MW project at Nadehi and a 22 MW one at Bazpur. However, based on the recommendations of the state government, both these projects have been dropped.
UJVN Limited is an established player in the hydropower space with experience in both large hydro and SHP spaces. However, the company’s assets are quite old and carry the risk of frequent outages and maintenance requirements. The company has a strong project pipeline as indicated in its business plan for the next few years, which will help ensure the creation of quality assets with the latest technologies for the future. While large hydro projects will take significant time, effort and capital to complete, SHPs will hopefully not face such impediments, and help in expanding UJVN Limited’s portfolio. The company, meanwhile, is venturing into solar power deployment, which will help diversify its energy basket for the future.