Teesta-V hydropower project in India: An example of good practice in sustainability

The 510-MW Teesta-V hydropower station, in Sikkim in northern India, has been rated as an example of international good practice in hydropower sustainability, according to an independent report.

The station, owned and operated by NHPC Limited, was reviewed by a team of accredited assessors using the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol (HSAP). The assessment, the first of its kind in India, was conducted between January and June 2019 and involved two visits to the project area, with stakeholder interviews.

According to the report, Teesta-V met or exceeded international good practice across all 20 performance criteria. It met proven best practice on its management of asset reliability and efficiency, financial viability, project benefits, cultural heritage, public health, and erosion and sedimentation. Teesta-V is also the first hydropower project globally to publish results against new performance criteria covering its resilience to climate change and mitigation of carbon emissions, after the HSAP was expanded in scope in 2018.

Teesta-V is part of a cascade of hydropower projects along the Teesta River. It was built to supply power to Sikkim’s Energy & Power Department and other state-owned distribution companies in India’s eastern region and commissioned in 2008.

The report documents how NHPC, formerly the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation, managed impacts on local communities and the environment and how the project has provided “significant” benefits, including providing low-cost electricity and employment.

“This assessment helped NHPC identify strengths as well as weaknesses in the Teesta-V project,” said Dr. Joerg Hartmann, lead assessor. “These lessons can now be applied across the company’s entire project portfolio, and because NHPC chose to be transparent with the results, across the entire Indian hydropower sector. In fact, some of the best practices identified in the assessment — such as conducting a follow-up Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) ten years after project commissioning, to verify initial predictions of impacts and the effectiveness of mitigation measures — should be considered by project owners everywhere.”

NHPC Limited said: “Our company operates with a mission to achieve excellence in the development of clean power at international standards. Following this mission and vision in letter and spirit, NHPC sought a hydropower sustainability assessment of the Teesta-V Power Station using the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocol.

“It is the first such assessment in India which itself proves the commitment of NHPC towards the sustainable development of hydropower. It is heartening to see that the Teesta-V Power Station has not only met basic good practices on all the parameters but it has also met global best practices on six performance areas. The results of this assessment will help NHPC to improve its business processes wherever required and to emulate best performance in its other projects.”

HSAP has been applied in more than 25 countries. It offers a way to benchmark the performance of a hydropower project against a comprehensive range of environmental, social, technical and governance criteria.

HSAP is one of two complementary assessment tools – including the Hydropower Sustainability ESG Gap Analysis Tool (HESG) – used to measure performance against a set of Hydropower Sustainability Guidelines on Good International Industry Practice (HGIIP). These tools are governed by the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Council, which is composed of representatives of social and environmental non-profit organizations, governments, commercial and development banks, and the hydropower sector.

Assessors are trained and accredited by the International Hydropower Association (IHA), which serves as the council’s management body. IHA is a non-profit membership organization with a mission to advance sustainable hydropower by building and sharing knowledge on its role in renewable energy systems, responsible freshwater management and climate change solutions.

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