New power policy shows promise



Shimla: The awakening from slumber has been a tumultuous affair for Himachal Pradesh. Ever since the state realised its latent potential, it has been huffing and puffing to prove its mettle. Much of the enthusiasm comes from the hydro electric power potential the state has, which is about 25% of the total potential of the country, and is stated to be the bridge to prosperity for the state. For more than a decade now subsequent governments have been trying hard to get the most out of rivers flowing through the state, and therefore we have seen policies after policies to govern proposed and running hydro electric projects in the state. So we have yet another power policy, this time it has been called ‘innovative’ to take care of local realities.
Small hydro-electric power projects up to 2 MW would now be reserved for Himachalis and the state government would also prefer Himachalis and Himachali co-operatives over others to developers projects above 2 MW and up 25 MW. There are good numbers of projects which are yet to be identified and the Himachal Power Corporation/HPSEB shall identify such projects and reserve the right either to allot these projects (up to 25 MW) to HPC & HPSEB or offer it to independent power producers (IPPs) and above 25 MW to HPC & independent power producers. In case of bonafide Himachalis to whom projects up to 5 MW capacity is allotted, the government would consider the request of promoters to sell equity shares to bonafide Himachalis who have been living in Himachal Pradesh from generation to generation.
As per projections, in the next decade about Rs 80,000 crore would be invested in power projects in Himachal. Fifteen percent of the project cost is to be utilised by the District-Level Development Authority. The Local Area Development Committee will be entrusted with, but not limited to the activities in the project included areas, which are those areas/villages surrounding/falling in the catchment/watershed areas extending from the reservoir to the tail race of the project. It would oversee the restoration of facilities adversely affected due to implementation of the project, implementation of rehabilitation and relief plan, Catchment Area Treatment (CAT) Plan and compensatory afforestation, and it would also oversee the activities related to development of agriculture, horticulture, animal husbandry, fisheries, rural development, I&PH, health, forest, education, PWD, power and other social, religious and cultural, etc.
The activities of the Local Area Development Committee during execution would be financed by the project itself and for this purpose, the developer would make a provision of 1.5 percent of final cost of the project. It has been made mandatory to release minimum flow of 15 percent water immediately down-stream of the diversion structures to address issues concerning riparian rights, drinking water, health, aquatic life, wild life, fisheries, silt and even to honour sensitive religious issues like cremation and other religious rites, etc on river banks. The government would also create an Authority of Hydro-Project Safety, Quality Control & Management of Water Flows and Discharge in due course.
As compared to other hilly states, all river basins in the state are fully developed. Therefore, as a small compensation, the state government plans to charge an upfront premium of Rs 10 lakh per MW for projects above 100 MW. In addition, the state will also seek royalty ranging from 12 percent to 30 percent and after 40 years, the projects would revert back to the state.
The State Government is committed to take up the task and doing its best to develop the hydro-power potential of the State. Power generation potential of the State has been assessed at 21,000 MW which is about 25 percent of the total hydel potential of the Country, out of which over 6311 MW stands harnessed so far.


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