The early onset of winter has affected nearly 1,000MW of hydropower generation in India because less water is coming from already freezing rivers.
“The winter this year has been early by around 15-20 days. This, in turn, has frozen the upper layers of the water sources, which, in turn, has affected the water discharge. We have been witnessing around 1,000MW dip in hydro power generation compared to last year (2006-07),” said a senior government official who didn’t want to be identified.
While the capacity affected is small—out of the country’s installed power generation capacity of 136,000MW, some 32,326MW is through hydroelectric projects—India faces a significant shortage and has been scrambling to boost capacity. The figure of 1,000MW is more than one-third of New Delhi’s demand of 2,700MW.
The early winter has hurt what are known as ‘run of the river projects’—those that are constructed on the rivers and where the natural river flow is utilized for generating power.
Reservoir projects, the other hydroelectric projects, involve reservoirs of stored water, which tends to minimize risks associated with seasonal changes in natural flow and availability of river waters.
The impact has been felt in “Jammu and Kashmir, Him-achal Pradesh, Uttaranchal and areas of North-East,” says Satish Chandra Sharma, former director (technical) at Tehri Hydro Development Corp. Ltd, or THDC.
While climate experts acknowledge the impact that early onset of winter could have on power generation, nobody is pointing to any systemic changes in weather patterns—at least not yet. “While winters are periods of concern for hydroelectric projects, I am not sure that early winter this year can be linked to climate change,” says Ravishanker Parthsarthy, hydrologist, National Institute of Hydrology.
India has set a target of adding 78,577MW of generation capacity during the 11th Plan (2007-12). Hydroelectric power is expected to contribute more than one-fifth, or 21%, of the planned capacity.
A majority of this capacity is expected to come from public sector units such as National Hydroelectric Power Corp. Ltd, North Eastern Electric Power Corp. Ltd, Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd, THDC and NTPC Ltd.
(Jacob P. Koshy contributed to this story.)