The Indian economy is under developing stage and electric power is one of the basic infrastructure required for its sustained growth. Power sector has taken long strides from a paltry installed capacity of 1362 MW at the time of independence to the present capacity of 109868.42 MW. However there are certain key issues which raise grave concern and demand immediate attention.
These include peaking shortage of 8.l8 per cent, low PLF operation of many thermal generating stations, underdevelopment of pumped storage and peaking hydropower schemes and poor hydro-thermal mix that is 25:75 at present against the optimal ratio of 40:60. The trend portents further worsening of hydrothermal mix.
India is blessed with immense amount of hydroelectric potential and ranks 5th in terms of exploitable hydro-potential on global scenario. Hydropower potential is estimated to the tune 1,48,700 MW out of which bulk potential is still to be harnessed. Pumped storage potential is estimated to the tune of 93,920 MW and the installed capacity is 2004 MW crippled by non-availability of off peak surplus power for pumping operation.
There are several technical advantages of hydropower stations vis-à-vis stations utilising other conventional forms of energy like quick start and stop, part loading, better capability to handle voltage fluctuations etc. Besides being inexhaustible, it is pollution free and non-inflationary in character. It helps in infrastructure development of the remote and hilly areas.
Enhancing power system stability is the key here. The unfavourable hydro-thermal mix reduces the operating plant load factor of thermal power plants which not only adversely affects the efficiency of the power system and plant life but also necessitates burning of huge amount of valuable petroleum fuel.
Reduced hydropower levels have a great impact on the systems creating high peaking deficit to the tune of 8.8 per cent. Peaking hydro and pumped storage plants are best suited for providing the peaking energy.
Techno economically hydropower stations are several times more favourable compared to thermal power stations keeping in view the life cycle costs, recurring fuel costs, environmental cost and grid economy. Hydro power stations utilise water, as a zero cost input energy source against which there is a constant escalation in cost of fossil fuels used in thermal power station, thus making the operational cost of thermal power stations ever increasing.
Due to under development of peaking and pumped storage schemes, especially in eastern region many thermal power stations are required to back down during off peak periods resulting in low operating load factor of the thermal power stations.
Considering the wider view points of integrated system of operation of different power plants there is a need to recognise the role played by peaking hydro and pumped storage schemes in managing the peak load. Capacity addition in the form of peaking hydro and pumped storage schemes would increase the system reliability and quality of power supply.
(The author is chairman & MD of NHPC and NHDC)