It’s been 29 years since the Ramgad small hydropower plant, Uttarakhand having 2 units of 50 kW each came into existence. Among many success stories related to small hydro renewable energy, Ramgad’s is a remarkable one starting from the standalone operation to grid connected. The small hydropower plant continues to provide 24 hours of uninterrupted electricity supply to six villages situated in remote locations of the Kumaon hills. Not alone electrification, the initiative generated employment opportunities for villagers.
One could easily gauge the installation of small hydro in the renewable energy, which is ever increasing. Today, India has 1102 small hydropower projects across the country with a total capacity of 4505 MW. As many as 129 projects of about 750 MW are in various stages of implementation.
It was in 1989 when the small hydro sector was entrusted to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE). Since then generating power through small hydro is steadily progressing in the entire Himalayan region and other parts of the country. In India, small hydropower plants are those having < 25 MW capacity. These are further classified into Micro (100 kW or below) and Mini (101 kW – 2MW). Currently, small hydro’s potential as identified by the Alternate Hydro Energy Centre (AHEC), Indian Institute of Roorkee (IIT-R), accounts to 21000 MW from over 7100 sites.
Already, small hydropower projects with robust and powerful technology have reached commercial stage. These projects are environmentally benign and continue to function for years. They do not encounter the problems associated with large hydro projects of submergence and resettlement.
Today, Government of India is promoting small hydro deployment to bring electricity in far-flung areas of the hilly region. International organizations, water mills association, cooperative societies, NGOs, village energy cooperatives and state nodal agencies equally participate in implementing the programme.
More so, various initiatives have been taken to promote its deployment and capacity building. Implementation of UNDP-GEF assisted Technical Assistance Project in hilly regions of India and India Renewable Resources Development Project with International Development Association (IDA) credit line were the first such international assistance. The capital subsidy is provided to state sector project, commercial projects, renovation and modernization of old small hydro among other activities like capacity building and research and development. Besides, various physical and financial incentives are given to project developers.
Special emphasis is on promoting the use of new and efficient designs of water mills for mechanical as well as electricity generation and setting up of micro-hydel projects up to 100 KW for remote village electrification.
In small hydro development, both public and private sector participation for commercial projects and decentralized social micro hydro for remote village electrification are being encouraged to accelerate the pace of work.
Currently, capacity addition of about 150 MW per year is being achieved from small hydro projects of which more than 70 % is coming through the private sector. As many as 24 Indian states have policies to promote private sector participation in setting up small hydro projects.