Electricity sans transmission line plan to bring no relief from power cuts

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    KATHMANDU, Nov 14:Expansion of transmission lines is as equally difficult and time-consuming as that of generation of hydropower.

    Energy-Poll-Lines“We lack proper plans to expand the transmission lines required for the distribution of power to be produced from existing and ongoing power projects. We can’t reduce load-shedding if we fail to establish the required transmission lines even if we generate sufficient electricity,” a senior technician at Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) said.

    A rigorous and scheduled planning is necessary for the extension of transmission lines, keeping in view the increasing volume of electricity planned for the next few years.

    NEA, responsible for implementing transmission line expansion plans, has not revised yet the ‘Transmission System Master Plan (TSMP) 1998’.

    Currently, 129 licenses for survey of 8,446 MW and 76 for generation with total capacity of 2,034 MW have been issued by the Department of Electricity Development (DoED).
    Of generation licenses issued so far, 63 were issued during the last five years. NEA’s master plan of 1998 says that only 220 KV
    grid transmission line is enough to meet the needs and limited exports for ten years.

    Several hydropower projects are under construction and some are in the pipeline to enable the country to raise power significantly if generation works run unhindered.
    Political parties have given high priority to hydropower development in their election manifesto. Some pledge to generate thousands of MW within ten years but the construction of transmission lines to distribute the generated power is in limbo.

    UCPN (Maoist) announced it would implement plans to generate 5,000 MW electricity in four years, CPN (UML) pledged 10,000 MW in 10 years while Nepali Congress has expressed commitment to add 5,000 MW in five years.

    On the one hand, according to experts, their commitment to generate such enormous amounts of electricity within such a short period is almost impossible. On the other hand, in the absence of transmission lines, people will not benefit even if electricity is generated as per their plans.

    “We need to update ourselves about the existing and ‘pledged’ power generation to develop a plan for required transmission lines to distribute the generated electricity accordingly,” a technical officer at DoED requesting anonymity told Republica.

    The transmission line projects under construction are planned on the basis of NEA’s power purchase agreement with the hydropower developers. NEA has signed Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with 1,835 MW capacity projects, including projects in operation, till October 2013.

    The senior technician underlined the need for an integrated organ or a committee comprising DoED and NEA should work together and revise TSMP that will harmonize electricity generation and development of transmission lines.

    Subarna Das Shrestha, the president of Independent Power Producers’ Association, opined that master plans for transmission line development must be made in line with the country’s demand.

    He suggested that the government form bodies to oversee national transmission line and forecast demand for electricity, taking lessons from the projects seeing inconsistency between power generation and transmission line development.

    The DoED has issued a generation license to Mistrikhola Hydropower Project of Myagdi, which proposed to connect to Rahughat Hydropower Project, NEA’s project. But the fate of this project is uncertain. NEA’s several transmission line projects including the grid to connect Rahughat project, is in a snail-pace or stuck.

    It has been a decade since the Thankot-Chapagaun-Bhaktapur 132 Kv transmission line of 28 began but its fate is uncertain as from the public have refused to provide the land for Right of Way (RoW) to erect towers and stretch wires. The project is a case in point, and almost all the transmission line projects have gone through troublesome land acquisition processes.

    “The law has a provision for providing compensation of 10 percent of the value of land, but locals have resisted and staged protests, denying land and seeking compensation of a 100 percent,” said Pushparaj Khadka, Dy MD of NEW.

    Land acquisition for transmission lines will be more difficult in the coming days if other parallel lines are planned to increase the capacity. Therefore experts suggest that it would be wise to plan for the longer term.

    Due to lack of timely expansion of transmission lines, bottlenecks in power wheeling capacity in different key grids have occurred leading to huge losses for NEA, thus increased power cuts.

    NEA has formed a study panel led by Khadka to work out measures to solve the chronic land acquisition problem.“We are trying to find much efficient measures for using the people’s land for the transmission line,” added Khadka. The committee has explored new options of leasing land or institutionalizing each transmission line as a company and issuing shares to the landowners so that they can benefit.

    Worse still, NEA is facing fund crunch to settle the land acquisition process. The government allocated Rs 13 billion, including an amount coming from foreign aid, for transmission line development in the current budget. But the government can spend the foreign aid only to purchase equipment for the purpose. The government’s budget from internal resources is around Rs 1.9 billion, which is hardly enough for paying VAT and other taxes.

    Source : Republica