For the last 2,000 years, man has used water to produce power in one form or another. Beginning from the water screw, to the waterwheel and watermill, and finally to the water turbine - we have innovated it all, learnt it all, used it all.
However, in spite of all these long years of learning and innovations, man still seems to lack the conviction that hydro power is the solution to our energy needs. Otherwise, how does one explain the fact that in all these millennia, we have barely scratched the surface of harnessing the full hydro power potential of our planet. Although, in all fairness, it must be said that we have come a long way since 1878, when a bulb was first powered by hydro electricity in Craigside, England; to this day when, upwards of 1,300 GW of hydro power capacity has been installed. But in perspective, this happens to be less than a third of our global hydro-electricity potential!
This is indeed unfortunate, because hydropower neither depletes fossil fuels, nor produces carbon dioxide and as such does not contribute to climate change. It, in fact, does not even consume water - but simply harnesses or unlocks the potential energy we could produce from water. But, have we relegated this ´olden and golden´ option of hydropower to the background, with all our hype on the ¨sunrise¨ (literally!) option of solar power?
Not really. Fashionable or not, hydro is not, and cannot, be a competitor to solar! Simply because solar energy is the ultimate source of all forms of power that we generate. Both rain-fed and glacial-fed water streams are caused by precipitation cycles driven by the sun. In other words, solar energy is the mother of all power, with perhaps the only exception being nuclear options.
But, as is evident even to a lay person technology is evolving fast, and hydel power can be generated through various techniques, which could bring it back into favour. But, among all these, the biggest generation potential exists for reservoirs. At the same time, these are also the most controversial projects, generating a lot of resistance on purported grounds of the adverse impact on fragile social and bio-diversity balances, since large tracts of land, including habitats are potentially submerged by such projects. Power Today is of the view, that antagonistic and adversarial stand-offs can be avoided in such developmental projects, if all stakeholders are encouraged to debate the issues in a transparent manner, leading to a shared understanding of the pros and cons across the opposing stakeholder groups, and also leading to formulation of substantive and meaningful resettlement plans. In fact, this strategy alone could be that one single differentiating factor in promotion of hydro power projects in all countries of the world-particularly the democracies. What is India´s story? India has been able to create a capacity of about 45 GW, from an assessed possibility of 150 GW, and the share of hydro power in our power basket has consistently fallen since 1966, which does not appear to be a stellar performance at all. So, what do we need to do?
In this issue of Power Today, we have covered the topic of hydro power in some depth, so that you can acquire an informed view on everything to do with this subject.