The recent heavy rains in Himachal Pradesh and an abnormal rise in the Satluj river’s silt levels — forcing the temporary closure of major hydro projects — has, however, not affected operations at both of JSW Energy’s hydro plants in the state, company officials said.
The Jindal group subsidiary JSW Energy operates the 1,000 MW Karcham Wangtoo hydroelectric project and the 300 MW Baspa-II plant further upstream in Kinnaur district, which the company had acquired from Jaiprakash Power Ventures for Rs 9,700 crore three years ago.
In August, IANS had reported the temporary shutdown of the 1,500 MW Nathpa Jhakri plant and the 412 MW Rampur hydel project after confirming with officials of the state-run Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd.
“Both Karcham Wangtoo and Baspa are snow-fed plants with most of the dam built underground, so we were not affected by the heavy rains,” JSW Chief Operating Officer (Energy Business) Sharad Mahendra told visiting reporters here, with the surrounding peaks laced with the season’s first snowfall that had occurred overnight.
The plants currently supply Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, besides Himachal Pradesh, at an average tariff of Rs 4.39 per unit under long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs) with these states, Mahendra said.
Himachal government is supplied 12 per cent of the total generation free of cost, according to an agreement with the state government.
Earlier this year, JSW secured a PPA of 200 MW with the Punjab State Power Corp to be supplied from the Himachal hydro plants. With this, the company’s consolidated long-term PPA proportion has currently risen to around 74 per cent.
The largest hydropower plant in the private sector, Karcham Wangtoo is a run-of-the-river project on the Satluj, while the Baspa plant is named after the upstream tributary on which it stands.
In purchasing these plants from the debt-ridden Jaypee Group, JSW Energy is looking to acquire stressed hydro projects to increase its green energy portfolio, the COO said.
“We want to increase our hydro power portfolio and we are definitely looking at various opportunities including stressed hydro projects at present,” he said. “We are evaluating a few of them in addition to reviving our own 240-MW Kutehr project.”
The Kutehr plant in Chamba district has been stalled since 2011. “Himachal Pradesh has come out with a hydro policy, which is enabling us to revive the project. We are hopeful of signing the long-term PPA with the Haryana government very soon,” Mahendra said.
Karcham Wangtoo is a 88 metre-high concrete gravity dam, 53 metres of which is below the riverbed level. Boasting of the largest underground desilting complex in India, the dam has four sedimentation chambers for excluding particles, and tunnels for mandatory release of water back into Satluj river. The project comprises of over 44 km of tunneling in the mountains.
“Unlike solar, hydro is not just cheaper, but the power can be made available anytime. Though there is no substitute to thermal power, which is the primary source, hydro is a better, cleaner and a financially lucrative option,” Mahendra said.
Yet, he said, banks are currently reluctant to fund large hydro projects.
“The lenders are also now not looking towards the power sector in a positive way in terms of lending so it will not be easy to get the funding without long-term PPAs,” he said.
Declaring all hydropower as renewable power and mandating the meeting of current renewable purchase obligations (RPOs) also through hydro would give a big boost to the sector, the official said.
(Biswajit Choudhury visited Karcham at the invitation of JSW Energy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)