Amid snail-paced monsoon, hydro power generation likely to stay weak

  • India's average annual water availability per capita is likely to drop to 1,367 cubic metres by 2031 from an already-low 1,486 cubic meters in 2021, Moody's Ratings warned.

Rituraj Baruah, Puja Das
First Published25 Jun 2024, 05:12 PM IST
This year, with the delay in the rains in north India, several plants have not gone through the required maintenance, which may lead to instances of faults and trippings in power supply.
This year, with the delay in the rains in north India, several plants have not gone through the required maintenance, which may lead to instances of faults and trippings in power supply.(HT)

New Delhi: Hydro power generation, which has declined over the past one year is unlikely to gain momentum this monsoon season amid delayed rains and dipping reservoir levels.

The southwest monsoon lost its momentum after reaching Mumbai on 9 June -- two days earlier than normal – and is yet to gather pace. This coupled with El Nino causing patchy rainfall and a prolonged dry spell last year has left water reservoirs drying. 

As per the latest data from the Central Water Commission, live storage available in the country's 150 key reservoirs as of 20 June was 37.662 BCM (billion cubic metres), 21% of the live storage capacity and 80% lower than last year.

Moody’s Ratings warned on Tuesday that India's annual average per capita water availability is likely to drop to 1,367 cubic metres by 2031 from an already-low 1,486 cubic metres in 2021. A level below 1,700 cubic metres indicates water stress, with 1,000 cubic metres being the threshold for water scarcity, according to the water ministry.

Also Read: India to get ’below normal’ rainfall in June, says IMD

In the last financial year (FY24), power generation declined 17.33% to 133.97 billion units, from 162.05 billion units in FY23, according to the Central Electricity Authority. 

In April, hydro power generation fell 7.71% on a year-on-basis to 7.99 billion units.

"Given the delay in progress of monsoons and the lower reservoir levels, hydro power generation is expected to be flattish compared to last year, considering the base case expectation of a normal southwest monsoon rainfall as per IMD (India Meteorological Department)’s prediction. 

However, if the rainfall remains below normal, hydro power generation may even fall compared to last year. Further, some of the hydro power plants were shut down last year due to adverse impact of floods and cloudbursts and all of these plants are yet to resume operations," said Vikram V, vice-president & co-group head, corporate ratings, ICRA.

Also Read: Monsoon to gather pace next week; cover country ahead of schedule, says private forecaster Skymet

Noting the significance of hydro generation during the monsoon months, Vikram V added: “It is largely during the first half of a financial year that hydro generation peaks. Last year, out of the 134 billion units produced in the whole of the financial year, 90 billion units of hydro power were generated in the first half.”

Usually starting June-July, hydro power generation contributes significantly to the country's power supply. This time around, however, coal-fired power plants are expected to continue taking the load given that hydro plants are yet to pitch in with higher generation. 

A recent report by S&P Global said that India's weak hydroelectricity production in recent times might stimulate further usage of coal to fulfill its rising power demand.

Depleting hydroelectricity output led to lower water level

"Depleting hydroelectricity output amid irregular rainfall in the past fiscal has led to a lower water level available in the country's primary reservoirs which could further reduce India's hydropower generation during the summer," it said.

India's installed large hydro capacity stands at 46.92 GW, which is about 10% of the total power generation capacity of 442.85 GW. The capacity addition of hydropower also has not gained momentum over the past year. According to data from CEA, in FY24, only 60 MW of capacity was added compared to 120 MW in the previous fiscal (FY23).

Indira Sagar reservoir in Madhya Pradesh, which caters to a hydel capacity of 1 GW, is 17% full, compared with 24% last year. Koyana dam in Maharashtra, with a hydro power capacity of 1.9 GW, is 10% full currently. Although it's better than 6% during the same period last year, it's lower than the normal level of 15% during this time of the year.

This fall in reservoir levels, delay in rains and the eventual impact on hydro power generation comes at a time when the power demand has already hit a record high and continue to remain elevated amid a prolonged heatwave.

On 30 May, the peak power demand of the country touched a new record high of 250 GW.

Moody's Ratings noted that India is facing increasing water stress amid rapid economic growth and climate change. It noted that this shortage of water supply can disrupt several sectors including agricultural production and industrial operations. Industries where the usage of water is higher, such as coal power plants and steel makers would also be impacted.

So far, thermal power plants have catered to the rising demand. However, during this time of the year several thermal plants go under maintenance which is key for smooth operations. This year, with the delay in the rains in north India, several plants have not gone through the required maintenance, which may lead to faults and trippings in power supply.

Meanwhile, the IMD on Tuesday said, “Conditions are likely to become favourable for further advance of Southwest Monsoon into remaining parts of North Arabian Sea, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh some parts of Rajasthan, West Uttar Pradesh, remaining parts of Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Bihar, most parts of East Uttar Pradesh, parts of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh, Gilgit-Baltistan, Muzaffarabad, northern parts of Punjab and Haryana in the next three-four days.”

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First Published:25 Jun 2024, 05:12 PM IST
HomeNewsIndiaAmid snail-paced monsoon, hydro power generation likely to stay weak

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