What Is The Capacity Of Hydropower In Karnataka?

Hydropower is a form of renewable energy that utilizes the natural water cycle to generate electricity. It is considered a clean and sustainable energy source as it does not produce air pollution or greenhouse gas emissions. Hydropower plants capture the energy of flowing water by directing it through turbines connected to generators. The kinetic energy of the moving water rotates the turbines, which then spin magnets inside the generator to produce electricity.

India has tremendous potential for hydropower generation due to its extensive river systems and favourable geographical terrain. Hydropower currently accounts for around 13% of India’s total installed electricity capacity. As a renewable resource that can meet baseload power requirements, hydropower plays a strategic role in India’s energy security and climate change mitigation efforts. Expanding hydropower capacity aligns with India’s commitments under the Paris Agreement to increase the share of non-fossil fuel-based energy resources.

Hydropower Potential in Karnataka

Karnataka has significant potential for hydropower generation due to its location in the Western Ghats region and the presence of river systems such as the Sharavathi, Kali, Bedti, and Varada. According to a World Bank report, the total estimated hydropower potential in Karnataka is around 6000 MW (Unleashing the Potential of Renewable Energy in India, https://documents1.worldbank.org/curated/pt/154631468268473130/pdf/627060PUB0Unle000public00BOX361489B.pdf). However, only around 45% of this estimated potential has been tapped so far. The hydropower potential in Karnataka lies majorly in the Western Ghats belt where small, mini, and micro hydel projects can be developed across various river basins and tributaries.

karnataka has significant potential for hydropower generation due to its location in the western ghats region and river systems

Installed Hydropower Capacity

Karnataka has significant potential for hydropower generation due to its location in the Western Ghats region. As of March 2022, the total installed hydropower capacity in Karnataka stood at 4,707 MW (Karnataka Power Corporation Limited, 2022). This accounts for nearly 9% of the total installed power generation capacity in the state across all sources. The hydropower plants are owned and operated by the state utility Karnataka Power Corporation Limited (KPCL).

The installed hydropower capacity has grown steadily over the past few decades. Some of the major hydropower stations in Karnataka include Sharavathy Generating Station (1,035 MW), Kodasalli Dam (840 MW), Varahi Dam (230 MW), Supa Dam (72 MW), and Gerusoppa Dam (240 MW) among others (Wikipedia, 2023). The state government has plans to further expand hydropower capacity to help meet the rising power demand and provide clean renewable energy.

Major Hydropower Plants

Some of the major hydropower plants located in Karnataka include:

  • Krishnaraja Sagar Dam – 172 MW (https://indiawris.gov.in/wiki/doku.php?id=hydro_electric_projects_in_karnataka)
  • Supa Dam – 100 MW (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Hydroelectric_power_stations_in_Karnataka)
  • Sharavathi Generating Station – 1035 MW (https://indianpowersector.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/hydro-india-karnataka.pdf)
  • Mahatma Gandhi Hydroelectric Project – 340 MW (https://indiawris.gov.in/wiki/doku.php?id=hydro_electric_projects_in_karnataka)
  • Varahi Hydroelectric Project – 115 MW (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Hydroelectric_power_stations_in_Karnataka)

Some other notable hydropower stations include Almatti Dam, Harangi Hydroelectric Project, Shivanasamudra Hydroelectric Project, and Linganmakki Dam among others.

Hydropower Generation

Karnataka has a total installed hydropower capacity of 4,700 MW and generates around 16,500 million units of electricity annually from hydropower sources[1]. This accounts for nearly 40% of the total electricity generation in the state[2]. The Sharavathi river basin alone contributes over 2,800 MW of hydropower capacity through dams like Linganmakki, Gerusoppa, Kodasalli and Talakalale.

Growth of Hydropower

Hydropower generation in Karnataka has seen significant growth over the past decade. As per a recent report in Deccan Herald, hydropower generation has doubled in the last 5 years in the state [1]. In 2022-23, hydropower generation was expected to cross 16,000 million units. Major capacity additions that helped boost hydropower production include the Sharavati hydropower plant which added 1045 MW and Kalinadi with 400 MW. Several new hydropower projects are also under construction or planned in the state.

Some of the major upcoming hydropower projects in Karnataka include the 400 MW Sharavati pumped storage project and the 72 MW Kukke stage III project which are expected to be commissioned in 2023. The 930 MW Sharavati hydropower project is also under construction in two stages and is scheduled for commissioning in 2024 and 2025. Apart from these large projects, over 20 small and mini hydel projects with a combined capacity of 434 MW are currently under development across various river basins in Karnataka [2]. With these new projects and capacity additions, Karnataka is aiming to tap more of its hydropower potential and plans to add over 3500 MW capacity in the next 3-4 years.


Despite the potential and growth of hydropower in Karnataka, there are some key challenges that are hindering further development in the sector. The state has a significant installed hydropower capacity, but a large gap still exists between the potential capacity and what has been harnessed so far.

One major challenge is the long development timelines and high costs associated with large hydropower projects. The average timeline for hydropower projects from conception to commissioning is around 6-7 years and involves extensive planning and regulatory approvals. The high investment costs, long gestation periods, and uncertainty around future tariffs discourage private sector participation (https://www.deccanherald.com/india/karnataka/hydropower-generation-doubled-in-5-yrs-but-poor-monsoon-brings-bad-news-1233623.html).

Environmental concerns around large dams and hydropower projects are also a significant challenge. Various groups have opposed projects that could potentially impact the fragile ecosystem of the Western Ghats. There are concerns around deforestation, biodiversity loss, and displacement of tribal communities. Protests have stalled projects like the Bedthi hydroelectric project on environmental grounds (https://article-14.com/post/small-hydro-power-projects-are-seen-as-green-in-the-western-ghats-local-communities-disagree-6181f91fb3efc).

Declining rainfall and drought-like conditions in recent years have also impacted hydropower generation, as reservoir levels drop. For example, in 2015, reservoir levels fell to just 18% of capacity, leading to severe power deficits in Karnataka (https://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/karnataka-s-power-problems-get-worse-115092801288_1.html). Addressing rainfall variability and climate change impacts will be key for realizing the potential of hydropower.

Government Initiatives

The government of Karnataka has taken several initiatives to boost hydropower capacity in the state. Some key policies and programs include:

The Karnataka Renewable Energy Policy 2009-14 aims to add 300 MW of small hydropower projects across the state. Financial incentives like sales tax and electricity duty exemption are provided. The government has also eased the process of land acquisition and obtaining clearances for small hydro projects [1].

The government has encouraged private sector participation in small hydro power projects through transparent bidding and incentives. So far the state government has allotted 85 potential small hydroelectric projects with a total capacity of 171 MW to private developers [2].

Karnataka Power Corporation Limited (KPCL) has signed an MoU with Tehri Hydro Development Corporation India Limited (THDCIL) to jointly develop 1,000 MW of hydropower projects across the state with an investment of Rs 15,000 crores [3].

Future Outlook

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Karnataka has the potential to increase its hydropower capacity significantly in coming years. As of 2018, Karnataka had an estimated hydropower potential of about 7,500 MW, of which only around 3,400 MW had been developed. This leaves significant room for growth in the hydropower sector.1

The state government has set targets to increase hydropower capacity to 4,000 MW by 2022 through projects on the Sharavathi, Kali, Bedthi, and Varahi rivers. Several new small and large hydropower projects are planned or under development to help meet these goals. For example, a 900 MW pumped storage project is being pursued on the Sharavathi River and a 120 MW hydropower plant is planned on the Bedthi River.2

However, development of new hydropower in Karnataka also faces challenges such as environmental clearances, rehabilitation of displaced people, and availability of funding. Addressing these issues will be key to realizing the full hydropower potential in the state in the coming years.


Karnataka has significant potential for hydropower generation due to its geographical location and river systems. The state has steadily increased its installed hydropower capacity over the years, with major projects like Sharavati, Kalinadi, Varahi and others. Currently the total installed capacity stands at [insert capacity] MW. Hydropower accounts for over 40% of Karnataka’s electricity generation.

However, factors like rainfall variability, resettlement issues, environmental clearances and financing have posed challenges to fully realizing the hydropower potential in the state. The government has taken initiatives like preparing detailed project reports and streamlining clearances to attract investment in the sector. With growing power demand, it is crucial for Karnataka to tap its unutilized hydropower resources. This will boost renewable energy, reduce reliance on fossil fuels and support sustainable growth in the state.

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