Integrated Resources Planning in Assam

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A group of international and state energy and environmental experts met on May 11 to initiate a planning process for infrastructure projects to ensure energy access to consumers in Assam with the least social and environmental impact. The workshop, held at the Indian Institute of Bank Management, sought to explore integrated resource planning (IRP) processes to optimize energy planning in the state. Currently more than 60 per cent of the state population does not have access to electricity, while electrified regions too experience frequent power cuts. Aaranyak, a Guwahati based environmental research organisation co-organized the workshop with International Rivers. In October 2013, International Rivers published a report, "An introduction to Integrated Resource Planning". To build on this members of the South Asia Program conceived the idea of organizing a workshop in the northeast region of India. 

The workshop included members from state power agencies and civil society representatives
The workshop held on May 11, included members from state power agencies and civil society representatives
Bharat Lal Seth

IRP seeks to select preferred energy plans with least risk, cost and impact. “In Assam we need integrated resources planning very urgently with the cooperation, assistance and complete dedication of the government of Assam,” said H N Das, former chief secretary of the Assam and chief guest at the workshop.

 Meeting energy through this planning approach begins by surveying the current demand patterns as well as to develop forecasts over a twenty to thirty year period. “In the popular discourse issues are currently viewed as whether we should go for hydro or thermal, small or large projects, implement supply side or demand side measures or go for renewable or non renewable projects. IRP gets us to look at this all together with societal goals in mind,” said Neeraj Vagholikar, member of Kalpavriksh researching in the northeastern region for more than a decade.

As northeast India has becomes a target for large hydropower projects, increasing climate risks to the eco-sensitive and rich Himalayan regions and river communities, the state of Assam's response has been a hopeful exception. Pressured by community movements, the Assam government is considering alternatives in meeting its energy demands. “Still there is a bias in favour of capacity addition. We need to explore the menu of energy options including ways to curb demand with an eye on improving production and consumption efficiency,” said Dipti Vaghela, solutions coordinator of International Rivers. Currently aggregate transmission and commercial losses in Assam are between 26 to 28 per cent. Improving efficiency is the low hanging fruit, for instance, which will be prioritized by an IRP process.

Former chief secretary, H N Das was the chief guest at the workshop
Former chief secretary, H N Das was the chief guest at the workshop
Bharat Lal Seth

Integrated Resources Planning is a public process in which planners work together with interested parties to identify and prepare energy options that serve the highest possible public good. They establish scope, investigate options, prepare and evaluate integrated plans, select preferred plans, and establish mechanisms to monitor, evaluate, and iterate plans as conditions change. Ranjit Deshmukh, an energy researcher currently affiliated with the University of California suggests that renewable is the source for the present and future with solar and wind nearing convergence with the cost per unit of existing non-renewable sources. “Solar is currently at Rs 6-7 per unit whereas good sites for Wind energy generation has a production cost of Rs 4 per unit of electricity. There are other decentralized options such as micro hydro, which need to be integrated in to the state and national energy policies,” said Deshmukh making a case for adopting an IRP approach.

IRP factors in environmental and other external costs and benefits to improve energy planning to provide energy services at least cost and risks; projects must be viewed beyond just the economic cost of production. The workshop concluded with the aim to initiate a process in establishing an IRP within six months. The first step is to map the stakeholders and identify responsibility. The participants included state power sector officials, academics and civil society representatives all of whom endorsed the initiation of IRP in Assam. A letter has been drafted to the Power Minister of Assam to initiate a IRP cell for state level power planning.

More information: 

For more information contact, Bharat Lal Seth, South Asia Program Coordinator at