The central government has asked the power ministry's technical arm, the CEA, to facilitate hydropower project developers prepare foolproof project reports, a move aimed at curbing growing instances of delays and rejections because of faulty or incomplete project reports.
This comes at a time when 95 hydropower projects, with aggregate generation capacity of 40,000 MW, are awaiting techno-economic clearance from the Central Electricity Authority (CEA).
"DPRs (detailed project reports) that come to CEA for approval are often incomplete or unsatisfactory. So now the government has sought CEA's help to facilitate a system where they coordinate with other agencies relating to the project and help the developer prepare a DPR which is watertight," a senior CEA official told ET.
The project report is also scrutinised by the Central Water Commission (CWC), the Central Soil and Material Research Station (CSMRS) and the Geological Survey of India. While CWC looks into hydrology design, safety and cost estimates of civil structures, CSMRS examines it from the construction material point of view while GSI looks into its geological aspects. This process often leads to delays. "This system will fast-track the process of approvals because the projects would be prepared under the guidance of authorities that will be clearing it. We could save up to 1-1.5 years for every project," another CEA official said.
Hydropower projects are capital intensive and have a long gestation period. Due to their complex nature, a large amount of preparatory work is done by the developers before a DPR is submitted to the CEA. Preparatory work covers areas, including field investigations, planning, design and engineering studies, cost estimates and safety studies.
"Preparing a comprehensive DPR is crucial for projects. But due to lack of data, resources, or inexperience of people involved in making these reports, companies face problems in getting approvals," said SV Dinkar, a hydropower projects consultant and member of Hydropower Association of India. "If the CEA gets involved at the preparatory stage, the process would be faster."
Power minister Jyotiraditya Scindia has been vocal about giving a push to the hydropower sector by expediting clearances to projects stuck at different ministries.
Hydropower projects with a combined capacity of 40,000 MW are yet to take off in various states, denying the country the opportunity to reduce its power deficit. These projects, most of which are in the northeast, could have proved a boon to the power sector that has been crippled by shortage of coal and gas.