N.L. Sharma, chairman and managing director of SJVN Limited, is disappointed that growth has been worse than sluggish, with only 44 GW coming onstream so far. He is dismayed that hydro currently contributes just 14 per cent to the country’s energy mix compared to 50 per cent five decades ago. “Growth in hydro generation has not kept pace with the overall growth in generation, and even less with thermal power. But it is important to understand that within the complex Indian power system, the third largest in the world, the hydro segment is even more complex and poses challenges unique to it,” says Sharma.
“Of our hydro output, 30-35 per cent comes from large reservoir-based stations, and their functioning is highly dependent on the amount of rainfall. The remainder comes from schemes that are contingent on snow-fed rivers. Besides, hydro generation is highly capital intensive and poses environmental and regulatory challenges,” says Sharma.
It has advantages too, a key one being its quick start-up time, which helps in managing the intermittent nature of renewable energy. According to him, renewable energy is the only way forward and hence, hydro is a crucial resource. In terms of the company’s goals, Sharma says hydropower has always been SJVN’s core competence, but it is diversifying into wind and solar energy as well as power transmission.
Sharma started his career with the Himachal Pradesh Administrative Service in 1989, and thereafter worked in various capacities such as assistant commissioner, subdivisional magistrate, deputy secretary to the chief minister, and director of small savings. Following this, he was posted as secretary at the Himachal Pradesh State Electricity Board, which marked the beginning of his long engagement with the power sector. In 2008, he joined SJVN as executive director in the HR department. He went on to become director, personnel, in 2011 and then CMD in 2017.
According to Sharma, electric cars and smart grids are only two of the many exciting developments that lie ahead. Overall, he expects major transformations to occur. A shift from fossil fuels is already taking place. Recent regulatory changes mean that efforts to boost renewable capacity will continue energetically, which, he says, SJVN will certainly leverage.
On his management style, Sharma says, “Given the complex Indian business context, management maturity is, I feel, more relevant than management technique or style. By the former, I mean being nimble-footed in adapting to diverse situations.”