|Global warming and growing dependence on exhaustible oil and gas imports have made it important to focus attention on alternative energy sources – nuclear energy and renewable energy sources (RES) to meet India�s electricity requirements. The Ministry of Power has set an ambitious goal of �Power For All� by 2012 which entails an additional capacity generation of about 1, 00,000 MW during 2002-2012. India is endowed with abundant renewable energy sources (solar, wind, hydro and biomass) but is not able to arrive at an optimum renewable energy mix due to constraints such as high installation costs of solar PV panels and limited cultivable farm land available for biofuels.
Hydropower holds great potential for river-fed areas and areas with streams/canals such as the North-Eastern States, Maharashtra and Kerala. While Large hydropower projects (more than 25 MW) usually involve issues of environment and rehabilitation of displaced population, the Small Hydro Power (SHP) projects (upto 25 MW) are relatively free of these problems and are well suited for small decentralized off – grid applications in remote rural areas where extension of the grid system is uneconomical. These projects require small investments, have low running costs and contribute to the upliftment of the local economy to self-sufficient levels through generation of greater employment opportunities (directly or indirectly). The success of Karmi Small Hydro Electricity project (district Bageshwar in Uttaranchal), for instance, validates this point. The project, with a capacity of 50 KW built within a small budget of Rs. 53 lakh supplies electricity to 225 families of six villages. It has contributed in improving the social status and living standards of local residents through generation of greater employment opportunities in occupations such as wool spinning and farming. In the international circles too, the importance of SHP projects is increasingly being recognized and India has made collaborative arrangements with countries such as China, Nepal, and Cuba for areas such as training of manpower and identification of feasible sites.
An estimated potential of about 15,000 MW of SHP projects exists in India but still 85 per cent of it is unutilized. If an average annual growth rate (of 6.8 per cent) of capacity addition during the 10th Plan Period is assumed to be maintained for the 11th Plan (2007-12), a cumulative installed capacity of about 2741 MW will be achieved by 2012 (Figure). This is clearly short of the planned target of 3376 MW. In the past too, we have missed the targets set for the years 2005-06 and 2006-07. Hence, it is clear that the Government�s target to meet �Power for All� by 2012 is facing a challenge. An important reason for the unmet targets of the 10th Plan Period has been the neglect of associated infrastructure. Some crucial target areas for SHP in the mountainous regions of North-East India suffer from lack of road connectivity hindering movement of equipments and manpower. Scarcity of trained manpower compounds the problem.