Transmission line is the highway for propagation of electricity and can also be compared to the circulatory system of human beings. The country does not have enough high-voltage transmission lines to transmit electricity generated at different places to the places where it is needed. The inability to construct transmission lines—that started around a decade back and those that are planned to be constructed—has been affecting generation of electricity in the country and the distribution system. More than 60 transmission lines from 66 KV to 132, 220 and 400 KV are being constructed in the country out of which 30 are almost complete. Big projects are being constructed in the country and if the transmission lines are not completed in time, we cannot even think about using the electricity generated from these projects let alone exporting it. We have to import electricity from India for the next 5-7 years until we can generate enough electricity inside the country. We need high-capacity transmission lines not just for transmitting electricity generated domestically but also to import from India for the time being. For example, we can import 1,200 MW from India if the 140-kilometer long 400 KV Dhalkebar-Muzaffarpur transmission line were completed.
The private power producers can use these transmission lines paying the fees and fulfilling the conditions set by the government, but private producers are now under stress as these transmission lines have not been completed in time. The six hydropower projects (Upper Solu, Lower Solu, Singati, Khaare, Mayakhola and Mewakhola) awarded to the private sector through free competition with assurance of construction of transmission lines by the government have not been able to sign Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) till now due to uncertainty about completion of transmission lines. Many more projects are also facing uncertainty due to lack of transmission lines. While new transmission lines have not been completed, even the existing ones have already been fully used resulting in wastage of some electricity in lack of connection to the national grid. Such problems are to blame for four hours of load-shedding a day even during the peak monsoon season.
Construction of transmission lines has been delayed due to problems in land acquisition, getting permission to construct inside forest areas, lack of timely payment for contractors who have completed their work and lack of security. Land acquisition appears to be the biggest problem out of them now. Transmission lines have not been completed as the locals refuse to provide land though erecting towers does not take large area of land, and they seek unreasonably high rate of compensation—that the project cannot afford—even if they agree to provide land. Though the government has allocated Rs 13.50 billion to erect towers for transmission lines in this year’s budget, the amount looks set to freeze as the government has not allocated budget for land acquisition. The government must make arrangements for providing the land required for construction of transmission lines at the government’s rate and ensure that land acquisition is done easily and in time so that there are no more hassles in moving these projects forward. The Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) must also expand its department responsible for constructing transmission lines and initiate process of establishing a separate company for construction and operation of transmission lines. We can hope that the transmission line master plan being formulated with financial assistance of the World Bank (WB) will pave the way for that to a large extent. It is also necessary for the government to involve the private sector in construction of transmission lines in the Build-Own-Operate-Transfer (BOOT) model apart from constructing them itself. The government must also bring policies to encourage private investors who want to construct hydropower projects along with transmission lines.
Source : Karobar Daily