Hydropower generation goes down in Himachal

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Shimla: Every winter, the cold climate almost freezes Himachal Pradesh’s hydropower generation. But this time unusually harsh Arctic conditions in the higher reaches, where most of the rivers originate, have made production nosedive further.

Officials said hydropower generation starts declining in October. By December, it comes down by 80 percent. This winter, it dipped more.

“Against the optimum generation of 36 million units daily, the lowest was 7.5 million units in the previous years during January. But this time, it was around 6.5 million units – 18 percent of the peak generation,” V.K. Verma, deputy general manager of the Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd (SJVNL) that operates the 1,500 MW Nathpa-Jhakri project in Kinnaur district, told IANS.

He attributed the decline in production to bountiful snow in the catchment of the Satluj river, on which the project is located.

The river discharge is just 68 cubic metres per second against 1,500 cubic metres during monsoon, Verma said.

The state-run Himachal Pradesh State Electricity Board Ltd has 21 hydropower projects across the state with a combined optimum generation capacity of 11 million energy units a day.

Officials said all the projects are generating less than 20 percent power.

Joginder Singh, power controller with the state electricity board, said the production in all projects has fallen drastically due to frozen water channels.

R.S. Thakur, chief engineer of the state-run 126-MW Larji hydropower project near Kullu town, said the project is generating 0.65 million units daily against the optimum generation of three million units.

“It’s (decline in generation) normal, but this time it’s unusual as compared to the previous years,” he said.

Private hydropower major Jaypee Karcham Hydro Corp Ltd’s 1,000-MW Karcham Wangtoo Hydroelectric Project and 300-MW Baspa Hydropower project, located in Kinnaur district, are functioning much below the generation capacities.

Jaypee Group senior vice-president Kanti Prasad said the Karcham project is currently generating 3-3.5 million units against the optimum generation capacity of 17 million units.

Likewise, the 300-MW Baspa Hydropower project, located upstream of the Karcham project, is generating one million units against 7.2 million units.

The Met office here said it has been an extremely wet January with the entire state, especially higher reaches, experiencing snow far above normal.

“The overall precipitation, both solid and liquid forms, during Jan 1-18 was 107 mm against the normal of 43.5, meaning 146 percent excess,” meteorological office director Manmohan Singh told IANS.

“Only Lahaul and Spiti out of the 12 districts had normal precipitation,” he added.

He said this year even the mid-hills experienced plentiful snow after a long gap. “We still have more than 60 days of active snowing in the state.”

But excess precipitation in winter has brought some cheer to the hydropower producers.

“We are expecting optimum hydropower generation this summer. Plentiful snow means sufficient water in all the rivers from April onwards,” Verma said.

Himachal Pradesh has abundant water resources with a power generation potential of about 23,560 MW. About 6,673 MW have been harnessed till now by the central and state governments, private players and joint venture companies.

Currently, 13 hydropower projects in the state sector, six in the central and joint sector and 19 in the private sector with a combined generation capacity of 5,809 MW are under execution.