Home / Companies / People /  Urgent need to develop our hydropower capacity: NHPC

NEW DELHI :  

State-run NHPC Ltd has been entrusted with building strategic hydropower projects in Arunachal Pradesh to counter China’s ambitious water diversion scheme for the upstream rivers that feed into the Brahmaputra. In an interview, NHPC chairman and managing director Abhay Kumar Singh spoke about the need for building hydropower projects to provide electricity storage capacity to facilitate India’s energy transition. He also explained the corporation’s projects in Nepal and Arunachal Pradesh. Edited excerpts.

With the monsoon arriving, how has hydropower capacity been performing?

As snowfall and winter were good this time and summers came early, this led to melting of the snow early and during April-May, NHPC generated more than last year. During the summer this year, hydropower was supported because of good snowfall during the winter and early summer. Further, during June to September, hydropower remains in peak. The full potential of hydropower is generated and the requirement also goes down due to rains, so the coal consumption falls. Therefore, there is an urgent requirement to develop hydropower. Because solar works in the day, not in the night and solar cannot have that efficiency which hydro-storage plants can provide. So, in order to get high efficiency of solar, pump storage projects are a must. Pump storage also has a life of more than 100 years, while battery storage does not have a life of more than 15 years. Hydro is green, neat and clean. It ensures water security for the future, and controls floods.

What’s your focus on projects located in the North East, given their strategic location?

North East is important because it has four major basins—Subansiri, Lohit, Dibang and Siang. There is a study of Central Water Commission, according to which in each of these basins, one reservoir is required. And the day all these reservoirs are ready, water levels of the Brahmaputra at Pandu in Guwahati will be lower by 1.8 to 2 metres during peak flood. If you lower the water level by two metres, you will not have floods. This is very important for flood control and to save lives. Therefore, we need to make one big reservoir in all the four basins.

Also, China is making a dam on the Siang which is known as Brahmaputra in the lower reaches. Around 75% of the water comes from our catchment because of vegetation, but if it (China) completes the dam and opens the gate, some day...

What is the status of Subansiri project?

There has been a very good progress in Subansiri and we were thinking that we would commission two machines in August 2022. We are making efforts now but there have been heavy rains since April. So, for some dam-related work outside and some structures, we are facing some difficulties in doing that work. The work has been going on very well. The total capacity of the project is 2,000 MW. We had a target of four units in August. Even if they get delayed because of these reasons, we will be able to complete the four units by March 2023.

What are your current projects in Nepal?

We are doing some work in Nepal. We have an MoU in the final stages for West Seti (750 MW) and then Phutot Karnali (480 MW). We will do the MoU, then we will be working on the feasibility report (FR), then as per liability, we will go for making the project. DPR (detailed project report) will be after FR. The power sharing agreement will be such that Nepal will have the first right to take the power. If suppose they don’t want to take the power, and they have surplus power, we will take the power to India and also transmit it to Bangladesh.

What else are you doing in Nepal?

In Nepal, we have identified three sites at Karnali on West Seti. They (Nepal government) said that work should start soon on West Seti. The draft MoU has been done; now, the Nepal government is looking into it. That is almost in final stages now. Likewise, in terms of Phutot Karnali, we have made the MoU, approved and sent it and discussions are underway on it. They want NHPC to develop all hydropower projects. Nepal has huge potential. It has a potential of 83,000 MW of hydropower, out of which on 1,500 MW has been developed. So, there is a lot of scope for development.

Apart from Upper Siang, have you taken up any other project in the upper reaches of Arunachal Pradesh?

We are doing work on Subansiri river. We are working on Middle Subansiri (1,800 MW) and Upper Subansiri (2,000 MW) projects. We are doing a detailed desk study on them. The project was allotted to private companies. A task force has been made and we have hired a private consultant EY which is doing some consultancy work on costs and pricing.

What is the status on Dibang project?

We have done the land acquisition in Dibang. It had gone for Public Investment Board (PIB) clearance and there were some queries. We are ready to award one other package that is called divergent tunnel as we have to divert the river. It takes at least two to three years time to complete the divergent tunnel works. Once it is completed, then we will be able to start the dam work. Right now, we are working on these projects in Arunachal Pradesh.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rituraj Baruah

Rituraj Baruah is a senior correspondent at Mint, reporting on housing, urban affairs, small businesses and energy. He has reported on diverse sectors over the last six years including, commodities and stocks market, insolvency and real estate. He has previous stints at Cogencis Information Services, Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) and Inc42.
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