Hydropower project developers present wish list to minister

Private developers of hydropower projects have asked the government to address obstacles hampering their operations like delays in getting forest clearance, difficulties in obtaining explosives required for blasting rocks, and delays in the construction of power lines to evacuate the electricity generated.

Speaking at an interaction organised by the Energy Ministry on Wednesday, which brought together developers of the 35 hydropower projects with an installed capacity of 25 MW or above which have signed power purchase agreements with the Nepal Electricity Authority, they asked the ministry to deal with the problems immediately.

According to Sailendra Guragain, president of the Independent Power Producers’ Association, Nepal, one of the major problems power project developers are facing is the delay in the construction of transmission line corridors by the Nepal Electricity Authority, the state-owned power utility.

“At least one project located on every corridor is nearing completion, but the power lines being constructed by the power utility are nowhere near completion,” said Guragain who participated in the interaction. “There is a high risk of the electricity being spilled over due to lack of such lines to transmit it into the national grid.”

Privately-owned Hewa Khola Hydropower Project is already losing out on Rs200 million in revenue annually as it can’t feed the electricity it generates into the national grid for lack of adequate transmission lines. The 15 MW plant located in Panchthar in eastern Nepal produces electricity worth Rs450 million annually, but its entire output cannot be transferred to the national grid over the existing 33 kV power line.

The Hewa Khola plant had planned on evacuating its electricity to the national grid over the Kabeli Corridor Transmission Line being developed by the power utility, but it has been forced to bear massive losses due to delays in the completion of the power line.

Participants also complained that delays in getting forest clearance from the authorities concerned were also hurting project development. “Getting approval to cut down trees is a cumbersome task which is pushing back the construction date of hydropower projects,” said Guragain.

Another problem pointed out by developers of power projects in the country is the hassle of obtaining explosives required for blasting rocks. “Till this date, we have been relying on explosives imported from India, and very often we face difficulties in getting such materials,” said Guragain. “We ask the government to move to produce such materials in the country so that project developers can obtain them easily.”

The participants also complained about obstructions they are facing from locals at the construction site. “Incidents of obstruction are increasing recently,” he said. “The government must work to create a safe environment for us to carry out our job.”

Addressing the interaction, Energy Minister Barsha Man Pun said the ministry was serious about solving the problems faced by power plant developers.

“From the time I assumed office, I have been trying to expedite the construction of key transmission line projects, and I have directed the authorities concerned to terminate the contracts of slowpoke contractors,” said Pun. “I have also initiated talks with the Forest Ministry to resolve the forest clearance issue.”

Source : The Kathmandu Post