Harnessing ‘Water Gold’ – Teesta Urja shows the way

As the rest of India struggles to meet perennial power shortages, the tiny Himalayan State of Sikkim has taken steps to emerge surplus in power by the next year with the execution of Teesta Urja cascade projects

Online PR News – 24-June-2012 – NEW DELHI – As the rest of India struggles to meet perennial power shortages, the tiny Himalayan State of Sikkim has taken steps to emerge surplus in power by the next year with the execution of Teesta Urja cascade projects.
Work is in rapid progress at Teesta-III, part of the Teesta Urja’s six-stage cascade projects. The 1200 MW Teesta-III is the largest of the six and it will not only give power virtually free to Sikkim but supply electricity to northern and eastern states which reel under chronic power shortages, particularly during the summer when the consumption is also at its peak.
Sikkim which is endowed with vast hydro power potential and Teesta is the main river stream in Sikkim and its potential is being harnessed through a cascade of six Hydro projects.
Setting an example for Hydro Power generation capability of India, the Teesta Project was conceived as part of cascade development of river Teesta by CWC in 1974. An SPV called “Teesta Urja Limited” was formed in April 2005 and Implementation agreement signed with the Sikkim Government in July 2005.
The project received all statuary clearances in Record time. The construction is being executed under EPC by a consortium led by M/s Navayuga Engineering Company Ltd.
As much as 99.2% of Tunneling Works was already completed (around 34.4 Km out of total 34.6 Km). The Excavation of 13.824 Km of Head Race Tunnel is also complete.
Power produced to be transmitted till Kishenganj through 400 KV DC line to be constructed by Teesta valley Power Transmission, a JV between Teesta Urja Ltd and Power grid Corporation of India Limited (PGCIL). PGCIL is to wheel the power to the beneficiary states in the northern region beyond Kishenganj.
The positive news about the progress of Teesta-III comes as a big relief to the people of Sikkim who are bracing themselves to pay higher tariff.
Power Secretary Mr AK Giri recently said that the state currently is procuring electricity from NTPC and thermal power is subject to vagaries of coal supply and prices. As such the price per unit Rs 3 will be applicable from this month itself, Mr Giri said.
Thus, Teesta-III will bring much-needed relief to Sikkim and power tariff hike will be part of history next year.
The success of Teesta also stands out as a shining example as many of the other hydel projects are not making much progress in north or north-eastern States.
Meanwhile, a World Bank report notes that severe power shortage is one of the greatest obstacles to India’s development, says a World Bank report. Over 40 percent of the country’s people -- most living in the rural areas -- do not have access to electricity and one-third of Indian businesses cite expensive and unreliable power as one of their main business constraints, it says.
Poor electricity supply thus stifles economic growth by increasing the costs of doing business in India, reducing productivity, and hampering the development of industry and commerce which are the major creators of employment in the country, it says.
With the issues like irregular coal supply, volatile price fluctuation and increasing pollution hazards casting uncertainty over thermal projects, hydro power clearly stands out as one of the best suited alternatives.
Power sector analysts say hydro power projects are zero pollutant, as compared to thermal projects which reportedly contribute to half of global carbon emissions and India relies on thermal power to the extent of 60% of its consumption today. Even the cost of raw material – water – is nil.
According to a latest report by HSBC Global Research increasing hydro power generation capacity would help in strengthening India's energy security.
"Given India's tight domestic coal supply and increasing reliance on imported coal, hydro capacity provides the country with greater energy security,” the report says.
Estimates are that India harnesses just about 25% to 30% of the hydro power capacity and give the Nation is blessed with a bounty of water resources, much of it goes literally down the drain.
In a written reply to a question in Lok Sabha, the Minister of State for Power Mr K.C. Venugopal said out of the identified capacity, 33320.8 MW i.e. 22.93% has so far been developed and another 15130 MW i.e.10.41% of is under development. He said that about 66.66% of the identified potential is yet to be developed
The World Bank acknowledges that the Indian power sector has made significant improvements in the maintenance and operation of its existing power systems. However, there is a limit to how much benefit in terms of additional power can be had from just these improvements. With the demand for electricity continuing to rise, the country needs also to look to additional and efficient generation.
The Government of India has decided to acquire an increasing portion of this additional power from the country’s vast untapped hydropower resources, only 23 percent of which has been harnessed so far. India’s energy portfolio today depends heavily on coal-based thermal energy, with hydropower accounting for only 26 percent of total power generation. The Government of India has set the target for India’s optimum power system mix at 40 percent from hydropower and 60 percent from other sources, the World Bank notes.
Advantages of hydropower:
As World Bank says, Hydropower plants can also start up and shut down quickly and economically, giving the network operator the vital flexibility to respond to wide fluctuations in demand across seasons and at different times of the day. This flexibility is particularly important in a highly-populated country like India where household electricity demand is a significant portion of total demand and this demand in concentrated in a short period of time (usually in the evening).
As an illustration, if the approximately 150 million households in India were to turn on two 100 watt light bulbs at 7 pm, the power system would experience an instantaneous surge in demand of about 30,000 MW!
Today, this peak demand is often met by households turning on small gasolene and diesel generation units, which, in addition to being polluting, are a serious health hazard in congested areas. And, with rising wealth, households are switching on a lot more than two light bulbs. Although hydropower plants are subject to daily and seasonal variations in water flows (which affects the production of electricity at that point in time), they are not subject to the fluctuations in fuel costs that trouble thermal power plants.
While hydropower plants have large up-front capital costs, they also have long and productive lives, which significantly help reduce costs over time. For example, the Bhakra Nangal plant, now more than 40 years old, has operating costs of only Rs 0.10 or US$ 0.002 per unit. Hydropower plants are thus generally cheaper in the long run than natural gas-based plants, which are constantly at risk from fuel price increases in the global market.
While India plans to develop mainly run-of-the-river projects, multipurpose hydropower plants with water storage facilities can help manage critical water resources in an integrated manner by serving as flood controllers as well as sources of irrigation and much-needed drinking water. The Tehri Dam in Uttarakhand, for instance, which was commissioned in 2006, today caters to one-third of the drinking water needs of Delhi, India’s capital.
Besides which, India’s hydro-resources are largely available in some of the least-developed parts of the country and hydropower plants, if designed appropriately offer significant potential for regional development and poverty alleviation. Hydropower projects that forge equitable systems of benefit-sharing and implement targeted local area development can help local communities improve the quality of their lives quite significantly, says the World Bank.
On assisting India in Hydel projects, the World Bank says it aims to assist the Government of India in meeting its targets for hydropower expansion in a sustainable manner. This entails not just ensuring financial, economical, and technical soundness but also meeting social practices which have been developed by the industry in recent years, and safeguarding environmental assets for future generations.
The Bank has been engaged in hydropower in India since the late 1950s. Several of its past engagements have been difficult, with Bank support for a number of potential hydropower projects, including the Sardar Sarovar project on the river Narmada, being cancelled before they were commissioned. The two most recent Bank engagements, the Nathpa Jhakri and Koyna IV projects which were completed in 2002 and 1998 respectively, have benefited from the lessons (FAQs) of earlier hydropower development, including more socially and environmentally sensitive safeguard policies.
At the request of the Government of India, the World Bank is supporting one hydropower project in the country -- the Rampur Hydropower Project downstream from Nathpa Jhakri on the River Satluj in Himachal Pradesh and is currently evaluating proposals for supporting two more hydropower projects in the country - the Vishnugad Pipalkoti Hydropower Project on the River Alaknanda in Uttarakhand and the Luhri Hydro Electric Project on the River Sutlej in Himachal Pradesh. While the Rampur Project is under construction, the Vishnugad-Pipalkoti and Luhri Projects are in varying stages of preparation.
The World Bank is also assisting the state governments of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand adopt a river-basin approach in the planning and development of cascaded hydropower systems. The two mountain states that have made hydropower generation a significant development priority, had asked for Bank assistance in initiating a River Basin Development Optimization Study that uses the Satluj and Alaknanda rivers as case studies which has been completed and discussions are ongoing on how to take this work forward. The Study also aimed at forging effective and equitable systems of cost-and benefit-sharing among all stakeholders, including developers and operators, affected local communities, and host states.
Hydropower stations are capable of instantaneous starting and stopping and are able to accommodate various loading alternatives. They help to improve the reliability of power systems and are ideal for meeting demand during peak times.
Thus, it is abundantly clear water emerges as the most precious resource – much more precious than even gold - to empower India