Govt puts pumped storage on fast track

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The Central Electricity Authority (CEA), under the Ministry of Power, recently approved a pumped storage project of 1.35 GW in Andhra Pradesh in a record time of 70 days against the stipulated timeline of 90 days. APGENCO is developing the PSP at Sileru, Alluri Sitharama Raju district.

The speedy approval shows the government’s resolve to ensure the fast commissioning of pumped storage projects (PSPs), accelerating the growth of renewable energy capacity in India. 

India targets 500 GW installed capacity from non-fossil fuel sources by the year 2030 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2070. PSPs will help integrate intermittent renewable energy with the grid. These will enable the supply of dispatchable RE power and help meet the grid’s peaking requirement.

Considering PSPs’ role in meeting RE ambitions, India plans to commission 39 hydro PSPs of 47 GW by the year 2029-30.

India has a potential for about 119 GW of PSPs (comprising 109 PSPs). Out of this, eight projects (4.7 GW) are under operation and four projects (2.8 GW) under construction. Further, CEA has consented to two projects (2.3 GW), and construction of these projects is slated to start shortly.

In addition, 33 projects (42 GW) are under survey and investigation to prepare detailed project reports. Of these 33 projects, the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change has already given the Terms of Reference to 22 projects.

To expedite hydro PSPs, the CEA recently revamped the DPR approval process for these projects. It has established a Single Window Clearance Cell for this purpose. The Central Water Commission (CWC) has nominated nodal officers for fast-tracking the clearance of design aspects. It has also designated more groups for examination of design aspects of DPRs to further fast-track the approvals. 

The Geological Survey of India (GSI) has also nominated nodal officers for fast-tracking the clearance of geological aspects of DPRs, and the CEA has requested GSI to involve their subordinate and field offices in states to further fast-track the approvals.

The Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change has agreed to appraise off-stream closed-loop PSPs with specific Terms of Reference. It has also notified to appraise PSPs on existing reservoirs under the B2 category (wherein no environmental impact assessment is required), subject to certain conditions. 

These considerations are expected to significantly reduce the time to get these PSPs’ environment clearance.

The CEA has also published revised Guidelines for Formulation and Concurrence of DPR of PSPs. Under the revised guidelines, the DPR concurrence timeline for the following PSPs has been reduced from 90 days to 50 days:

  1. PSPs awarded under section 63 of Electricity Act, 2003 (determination of tariff by bidding process)
  2. PSPs which are part of integrated renewable energy projects that contain other RE sources such as wind energy and solar energy.
  3. PSPs being developed as captive plants or merchant plants.

The timeline for DPR concurrence of other PSPs has been reduced from 125 days to 90 days.

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