Why NTPC, a thermal power firm, is building hydro projects in the Himalayas
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Why NTPC, a thermal power firm, is building hydro projects in the Himalayas

NTPC is in focus as one of its hydropower projects — Tapovan Vishnugad, at Dhauliganga river in Uttarakhand's Chamoli district — has been damaged in the floods.

Rescue work underway at the Tapovan tunnel in Chamoli district, Uttarakhand, on 8 February 2021

Rescue work underway at the Tapovan tunnel in Chamoli district, Uttarakhand, on 8 February 2021 | Photo: Suraj Singh Bisht

New Delhi: The NTPC, a state-owned ‘Maharatna’ firm, was one of the companies affected by the flooding in Uttarakhand that has caused widespread damage and led to loss of lives. 

The company had been constructing the Tapovan Vishnugad, a hydropower project at Dhauliganga river in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district that has suffered damages. Uncertainty also prevails about the well-being of employees and workers on the project site. 

But why does NTPC, formerly known as National Thermal Power Corporation, have hydropower projects? ThePrint explains.

What is NTPC’s main business?

The NTPC is India’s largest power generator. Its main source of power generation is through thermal power — or power generation using coal. More than 82 per cent of the nearly 63,000 megawatt of installed capacity that NTPC and its subsidiaries generate is through coal. The company reported a profit of over Rs 10,000 crore in 2019-20. 

Why the foray into hydropower generation?

NTPC’s focus towards hydropower was part of the corporation’s diversification efforts into other more environmentally friendly sources. 

It first entered this sector nearly two decades ago through the Koldam Hydro Electric Power Project located on the Satluj river in Himachal Pradesh’s Bilaspur district. 

This 800 megawatt (MW) project is the only operational hydropower facility of the firm as of now. NTPC has a couple of other facilities under construction. Besides the 520 megawatt Tapovan Vishnugad project, the company has another hydroelectric project in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district — Lata Tapovan. However, it is one of the projects where the company is awaiting nod from the Supreme Court to begin operations. 

NTPC also has a 120 megawatt project under construction — Rammam — in Darjeeling district of West Bengal.

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How has NTPC’s recent acquisitions of two firms expanded its hydropower portfolio?

In March last year, NTPC bought the entire government stake in the two-state owned firms — THDC India and North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO). Both are firms primarily into hydroelectric power generation. Their acquisition added the following hydroelectric projects into NTPC’s portfolio — THDC’s Vishnugad Pipalkoti project and the Tehri pumped storage plant and NEEPCO’s Kameng project. The Pipalkoti project is also reported to have suffered some damages in the flooding.    

How important is the non-coal power generation for NTPC?

NTPC aims to become a 130 gigawatt capacity firm by 2032. It envisages that while more than 65 per cent of this capacity will be through coal-based power generation, the remaining 35 per cent will come from other sources such as hydro, solar, nuclear and gas. It envisages hydropower’s share will be 3.8 per cent, solar will contribute 23.2 per cent and gas will contribute 4.6 per cent. 

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