With a population of well over a billion people and a fast growing economy, India’s electricity demand is expected to double over the next decade.
India has close to 100 hydropower plants above 25 MW, plus nine pumped storage stations. In 2019, it surpassed Japan to become fifth largest in the world for potential hydropower capacity, surpassing 50 GW.
Hydropower’s share in the electricity mix has, however, been decreasing over the years, accounting for around 10 per cent of generation, with the majority (80 per cent) coming from thermal generation.
India has over 90 GW of pumped storage potential, with 63 sites identified and recognised in national energy policies for their valuable grid services.
Many current hydropower projects have been slow going with delays due to complex planning procedures, prolonged land acquisition and resettlement, a lack of enabling infrastructure including transmission, insufficient market scope and long-term financing.
Significant reforms made in recent years include the 2008 Hydro Power Policy encouraging private sector participation and the 2016 National Tariff Policy on frequency response markets and extended certainty of power purchase agreements.
The Central Electricity Authority (CEA) and Ministry of Power have also been actively monitoring and fast-tracking priority schemes, notably the 50,000 MW Hydro Electric Initiative.
The government formally recognised large hydropower as renewable in 2019. This means that these projects built after March that year will be able to benefit from the renewable purchase obligation. Previously only projects up to 25 MW were considered renewable.
Policy proposals mooted by observers include new ancillary service markets, attributing hydropower full renewable status along with separate purchase obligation benefits, and more integrated planning. Draft policies under preparation are expected to support stalled hydropower projects and private sector uptake and could include measures to make hydropower tariffs more competitive.
In 2020, the country’s hydropower sector was heralded for restoring electricity to tens of millions following a huge plunge in demand.
In 2019, the Teesta-V hydropower station in Sikkim was rated as an example of international good practice in hydropower sustainability, following an independent assessment.
Read the detailed country profile in the 2018 Hydropower Status Report.