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Best Practices in Energy Transition under Natural Constraints in West Bengal

Authors: Yamini Khosla, Aashutosh Gupta, Rivisha Sachdeva


This piece is from the paper presented during the Bengal Policy Hackathon - co-hosted by Bengal Development Collective and Public Policy Club - IIM Calcutta in association with Swaniti Initiative.

Find the problem statement here: Energy Transition: The State of West Bengal


Key Takeaways

  • Targeting of power plants by dividing the state physiographically into suggested regions

  • Preference to pumped storage models for round-the-clock power supply tapping existing reservoirs in the Purulia region

  • Structural changes by infusing metal in concrete structures and using powerhouses made of steel alloys

  • Hydrothermal system model with injected wells for geothermal generation using the infrastructure from Bakreswar Thermal Power Plant

  • Increased adoption of biomass energy by increasing installed capacity and available feedstock for energy generation, segregation of waste at source and adoption of a decentralized and community-driven model to successfully process 100 per cent of its waste generated into clean energy


Districts shown in this and most subsequent maps are identified in the inset. (Source: Spot-heights from Survey of India. Other elevations from Shuttle Radar Topography Mission data of 2000)
Fig 01: West Bengal - Physiographic divisions

The land which holds importance in the history of India to lead the renaissance of the country, West Bengal is situated between 21 to 27 latitude. It is a beautiful city still retaining its architectural essence as Rabindranath Thakur wrote in his writings. Though blessed with the beauty of rivers, gorges and wetlands, it does not attract very high luminosity and wind speed from nature.

Physiographically, it can be divided into 3 regions- the Northern Mountains Region, Western Plateaus and Plains of the North and South Region. Northern Mountains having high mountains and deep gorges have the potential for hydropower energy. Western plateaus, on the other hand, is a resource belt due to the extension of the Chota Nagpur Plateau which provides the state with huge coal potential. Plains, especially the South 24 Parganas region of West Bengal have wind potential which cannot be found in other regions of the state, providing wind potential evident in Frazerganj Wind Power Plant.


Potential: According to the Government of West Bengal portal, West Bengal has a hydropower potential of 6300MW out of which the potential from pumped storage is 4800 MW and from the canal is 1500MW. 900MW and 534MW of these have been already installed respectively. Most of this potential exists in the Northern Mountains Region due to the deep gorges and rivers of Teesta, Jaldhaka and Raidhak

Pumped Storage Hydroelectric Power: Pumped Storage hydropower projects exploit the potential difference between two reservoirs at two different heights

Source: Research Gate, Roger C, Viardero
Fig 02: Schematic of pumped storage hydropower system

West Bengal has made some success in comparison to other states in terms of installation and efficiency of pumped hydropower in the state. The tapped potential in the state in this regard is given in Table 1.

Policy Recommendations

Tapping the pumped potential of the Purulia Region using the already existing reservoirs in a closed loop model:

The region around Purulia offers a great deal of such potential due to the terrain. In addition to this, there exist around 20 dams or reservoirs in this region. Using the existing reservoirs such as Kansabati Kumari and Hanumata Dams with substantial height and storage can be used to expand installed capacity through pumped storage projects. These, being in a closed-loop model i.e. away from the main river stream, prevent aquatic life from anthropogenic disturbance.

Use of metal in concrete or in place of concrete in hydropower structures:

The replacement of mesh reinforcement-based concrete with ones infused with steel fibres distributes the cracks in the system, making the structures more durable. The structures of the powerhouse can be made of steel to reduce cost and increase durability.


Case study: Angola’s Lauca Plant

With low average wind speed and low luminosity i.e. conditions similar to West Bengal, Angola’s 68% of total installed capacity comes from hydropower. The largest hydropower project in Angola is the Lauca Hydropower project with 2.07 GW of installed capacity. The highlight of this power plant is that instead of a powerhouse made of concrete, they have used steel alloys. This gives the flexibility of assembling the powerhouse out of destination not just reducing the cost and man hours but also eliminating the need for on-site shoring systems.



Naturally occurring hot waters are the source of geothermal energy. Hot springs in the Bakreswar region in West Bengal possess such potential as the region lies on the SONATA rift. Bakreswar- Tantloi (on the borders of West Bengal and Jharkhand) geothermal reservoir has a temperature of around 80-120 degrees Celsius. Bakreswar hot springs have a high heat flow rate and geothermal gradient, about thrice the global average, making them suitable for a power plant.

Bakreswar hot springs have a higher concentration of sulphates and carbonates as compared to chlorides, suggesting that there is lower mixing of water from hot springs into the groundwater. It makes the construction of geothermal plants non-polluting in nature. Moreover, greenhouse gas emission from such a project is negligible and it has no negative environmental impacts.

Since geothermal power plants have lower maintenance costs and require less land as compared to traditional solar and wind power plants, it becomes an ideal solution. It can provide a round-the-clock power supply and also power the base load.

Policy Recommendations

Deep injection well

A hydrothermal system-based power plant can be set up in Bakreswar by creating a deep injection well (1-2 km) near the hot spring in which cold water is pumped down. The cold water passes through the hot rocks in the production well and reaches the surface. This hot water gets converted to steam which is harnessed and cleaned to rotate the turbines which generate electric power. The same water will be sent back through the injection well as shown in the diagram.
Source: US Department of Energy
Fig 3: Enhanced geothermal systems can draw heat energy from a wider range of sources than traditional geothermal power plants

Government-funded research work & prototype construction

Only preliminary studies have been conducted so far on the geothermal potential of the Bakreswar region by independent entities. Moreover, no such geothermal plant exists in the state of West Bengal. So, a lot of research is required to be conducted to ascertain the type of structures that can be constructed, recognize specific hot springs for power generation, install a prototype power plant etc. Examples can be taken from countries like Indonesia and the Philippines which derive more than 27% of their energy from geothermal energy. Combined together, they are home to 5 out of the top 10 biggest geothermal plants in the world.


Case study: Iceland’s transition to Renewable energy

Today, almost 100% of the energy consumed in Iceland comes from renewable energy sources. Municipalities built over the already successful geothermal and hydropower projects by local entrepreneurs. They borrowed drilling technology from the oil industry to dig deep wells for hydrothermal plants.

For small projects, the Govt created a fund for test drilling and research and for providing cost recovery for failed projects. Focus on large-scale power production led to large international energy users being attracted to set up plants to boost the economy and create jobs.



The Union Ministry’s mandate of co-firing 5% biomass with coal has not been carried out in the state even after identifying 2 power plants for trial purposes by WBPDCL, due to the inability to source biomass pellets. Therefore the availability of resource-derived fuel (RDF) is to be ensured by the optimum processing of waste. The technological advancement in the area has made many methods available- thermal and biological - which can be plugged into further biomass production in the region as given in Table 2.

Chart 1: Potential of different waste generated in West Bengal

Policy Recommendations

Capacity building

Construction of new units to manufacture RDF pellets in proximity to existing dumping grounds, beginning with the locality of Dhapa, Kolkata, and local Waste to CNG plants to power the municipal trucks and buses presently running on diesel

Segregation of waste at the source

to be improved (at the household level- currently 31.2%, by street vendors, RWAs, 21.6% in ULBs- according to West Bengal Pollution Control Board). Storage of Horticulture waste on generators' own premises is to be initiated

Involving the community

The city of Indore engaged SHGs of women at different stages of processing waste. An Information, Education and Communication (IEC) programme, sensitive to local cultural practices, can penetrate deep into the collective psyche to yield rapid and transformative change in attitudes.

Waste Processing

Waste from vegetable, flower, fish, meat, and poultry markets needs to be processed in a bio-methanation plant by the ULBs. (Waste processing based on waste to energy/RDF currently 0.08%). Usage of RDF by Cement plants/ Power plants/Industries located within 200 km of such facility.


Case study: Thiruvananthapuram and Bobbili

Public-private partnership in setting up RDF pellet plants in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala is an innovative model where it generated revenue of INR 7.71 lakh per month for the municipality through the sale of compost and biogas and reduced the burden of expenditure while collecting and treating MSW to NIL. Training has been imparted to waste pickers/ waste collectors in all ULBs.

Andhra Pradesh’s town, Bobbili, applied the polluter pays principle (as the town made shop owners responsible for littering by their customers) to achieve that crucial last percentage point under any waste management vertical – source segregation, segregated transportation, etc.


Policy implementation in the field of renewable energy is always restricted by natural resources that are available on-site. Despite low luminosity and low wind speed in the region, the state of West Bengal has a substantial amount of potential for renewable energy and must be tapped keeping in mind the regional distribution and the skewness of the resources.



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