A number of hydropower projects in Uttarakhand and large sized projects in Arunachal Pradesh are waiting for the Ministry of Environment and Forest‘s (MoEF’s) nod. In current troubled times, how is business in the sector faring?
Hydropower is a very reliable, efficient and proven source of electricity across the world. However, there is a prevailing adverse sentiment towards the sector in India, as there is no visible movement in new project development and implementation. Post the floods of 2013, the sentiment in the state of Uttarakhand towards development of hydropower has suffered badly. There are no projects under the feasibility study stage with consultants indicating a dearth of future projects in pipeline.
On the positive side, the Singoli Bhatwari 3 x33 MW HEP in Uttarakhand has made strong restart after the flood devastation. Voith is the electro-mechanical equipment supplier for this project and has already restarted execution of the project. Arunachal Pradesh continues to be a state with immense hydropower potential, which remains untapped. Various issues continue to stall existing large projects bringing a negative impact on prospective investors towards hydropower in the state.
Poor infrastructure, both roads and power evacuation, remains a bottleneck to further development of hydropower resources in the state.
With all the environment concerns attached, do you see the sector recovering anytime soon?
For positive development in the sector, concerted efforts are necessary from the government and all stake holders. There is a great need to address the concerns regarding hydropower in a responsible and scientific manner to improve the general sentiment about hydropower. There is a need for the government to bring forth a clear energy policy with targeted development of hydropower in the country. The optimum share of hydropower in the overall generation mix in the country ought to be maintained for energy security as well as grid stability.
Since hydropower is a reliable and efficient way of generating electricity and compulsions of climate change would drive the future needs sooner than later, we are confident that the sector will look up. Also, with the current focus by Ministry of Power (MoP) on renewable energy like wind and solar power, pumped hydropower storage (PHS) will become more relevant in the near future. PHS is currently the only storage technology that can provide large storage needed for accommodating renewable electricity.
Are any of Voith Hydro’s projects also stalled? If yes, where?
The 600 MW Loharinag Pala project of NTPC, in the state of Uttarakhand, for which Voith was the E&M equipment supplier, was stalled in 2010 and later terminated.
Considering that a majority of the existing dams have become inefficient, does renovation, modernisation and uprating (RM&U) appear to be more commercially viable in the Indian context?
RM&U is certainly a very important sector of operation that can substantially increase the efficiency and output of equipment of existing power plants, many of which are now very old in the country. The efficient life span of a hydropower plant is measured in generations after which RM&U is recommended. Implementation of policy in this regard remains slow and disorganised. Also, RM&U work needs to be carried out only by experienced and qualified companies with proven expertise, which at times is overlooked by the clients.
As RM&U projects do not involve any new environmental, land, forest issues, they can be cleared very fast and quick generation benefits can be realised. Thorough monitoring of implementation of RM&U works may bring time bound project completion and more efficiency in the sector.
Does Voith also undertake RM&U projects?
Yes, modernisation and service are a very important and integral part of Voith’s portfolio. Voith has many years of proven experience across the world for RM&U projects in all types of hydropower plants. In India, Voith has done substantial work in this area including the RM&U of Hirakud Unit 3 and 4 with uprating of the capacity. Ongoing projects include the upgradation of generators for Tata Bhira project in India and Ubol Ratna project in Thailand and turbines of NHPC’s Salal H.E.P.
In view of the difficult times that India’s hydropower sector is facing, which are the other neighbouring countries that Voith is relying on?
Voith Hydro is active in all hydropower active countries on a global level. Voith Hydro India is active in most countries of South Asia as well as of South East Asia. These are markets of great importance to us. In recent years, in India and in South Asian and South East Asian countries, Voith has been awarded over 50 projects.
What is Voith doing in the balance of plant (BoP) space?
In the area beyond turbine and generator, Voith Hydro is very active in the field of hydropower plant automation, including upgradation of existing power plants. Voith Hydro is a complete solutions provider for all types of hydropower plants, which in industry parlance is known as turnkey or ‘water to wire’ solution provider.