Varied interests in the energy and power sector viz., CDM, carbon rating, Monitoring & Evaluation, Energy Management, Rural Development; Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy related matters; Demand Side Management (DSM), Energy Audits, Distributed Power Generation (Biomass, Wind,Solar and Small Hydro), Participatory Management.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Small hydro power in India

Take small hydropower sector seriously, says energy consultant
‘India, like China, can use it as means to achieve rural electrification’
N. Ramakrishnan
Chennai, June 16 “Be serious about it and have a proper policy in place.” This, says Prof V.K. Damodaran, an energy consultant on UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organisation) Mission, is the lesson that other countries, particularly India, have to learn from China’s small hydropower sector.
He should know. For, Prof Damodaran is also a managing director of the International Network on Small Hydro Power, headquartered in Hangzhou, China. The organisation has been sponsored by the UNIDO and the United Nations Development Programme, to promote small hydropower development for rural electrification.
Prof Damodaran, 68, a power systems engineer, lived in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province between 2001 and 2005, says China’s approach to small hydropower development is entirely different from that of India’s. China views small hydropower (plants up to 25 MW capacity) as a means to achieve rural electrification and tailors its policies to achieve this. (Hangzhou is 185 km southwest of Shanghai.)
Adding power
China, according to him, adds up to 6,000 MW of small hydropower capacity every year and the total installed capacity from this source should be about 50,000 MW. From 2010, the country hopes to add 10,000 MW of small hydropower capacity every year. It has estimated its potential at 1,50,000 MW of which it believes it can realise at least 1-lakh MW.
Prof Damodaran, who was here recently to participate in the Green Power conference organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry, told Business Line that China had developed a strong local manufacturing base for small hydro power plant equipment — turbines, generators and the like.
More importantly, the country standardised the designs of the equipment, which meant that parts produced by one manufacturer could be replaced with those made by another. There were over 120 manufacturers of various small hydropower plant equipment.
According to him, China’s growth in small hydropower is mainly because of policy support. “There is not much of subsidy provided,” he adds. Those setting up small hydropower plants are encouraged to sell power to the rural area where the plant is located and not to the grid. This means that there should be an active industry that will consume the electricity generated. That is why you will find companies doing mass manufacture of goods in rural areas in China, he explains.
Asked for a comparative cost, Prof Damodaran said the cost of a MW of a small hydropower plant in China would be Rs 4 crore while it would be close to Rs 7 crore in India. Of the 2,300 counties in China, nearly a third were fully dependent on small hydropower for their electricity, he said.
Protecting trees
In forest fringe areas, where people tended to cut firewood for cooking, the Chinese authorities encouraged small hydro power plants to be set up not just for lighting, but also for cooking. This made sure that the local population did not cut trees for firewood.
What is the lesson for India? “You should take it (the small hydro power sector) seriously. Small hydro’s role is in developing the rural economy and do not talk about it as an industry,” he says.
Prof Damodaran is also involved in another UNIDO-sponsored initiative in Kenya, to provide rechargeable LED bulbs to households, to replace kerosene lanterns and the like. The operating costs were found to be much lower — the households spent nearly $15 a month on kerosene, whereas recharging the bulbs cost them a third of that.
Of course, each bulb cost $12, which could be paid back in instalments. This programme would be extended to the whole of east Africa, he said.
Messiah of hydro power