KATHMANDU: Sanima Mai Hydropower Limited, which owns a hydel plant in Ilam with a capacity of generating 22 megawatts of electricity, has shares priced at Rs 702 but so far has not generated real income, as it has not been able to sell electricity, which it has been producing.
“We launched test phase of power generation in Bhadra (Nepal month that falls in mid-August to mid-September) and completed final test in the presence of officials of Nepal Electricity Authority on Saturday. But we have not been able to evacuate power to national grid because of lack of transmission line,” Subarna Das Shrestha, CEO of the company, told The Himalayan Times.
As per the agreement, Sanima Mai is responsible for building 11-km 132kV transmission line to evacuate power from the project site to Ilam substation and NEA is responsible for building 34-km 132 kV transmission line on Kabeli corridor. Sanima Mai has already fulfilled its promise, but NEA has not.
Because of this, the company has not been able to generate revenue from electricity that it is producing. This is creating financial burden on the firm, which needs to pay ‘interest of around Rs 280-300 million per year on loans acquired from financial institutions’.
An NEA official told THT that construction of transmission line on Kabeli corridor is moving ahead at an accelerated pace.
“Of the 95 towers that need to be erected, foundations of around 92 have been laid and 35 towers have been installed. Also, wires of seven km in length have been fixed to the towers,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
But even then, the official acknowledged, it would take at least four months to complete the work.
Similar problem is also being faced by 10MW Sipring Khola Project in Dolakha district. Like Sanima Mai, the project has also started generating electricity but has not been able to evacuate it to the national grid because of absence of transmission line. Such dilly-dallying has started creating frustration in the energy sector, which had started to look up following signing of power trade pact with India and two 900MW hydropower project development agreements.
Going by the statements of NEA officials, construction of transmission lines — which are lifelines for hydel projects — is generally delayed because of three reasons. “First is the delay created by NEA itself in submitting proposals. Secondly, the Ministry of Energy and the Department of Electricity Development take quite some time to complete studies and endorse environmental impact assessment reports. Then there is social problem created by locals, who generally demand exorbitant amount in compensation for land through which high-voltage wires pass.”
If these problems are not addressed immediately, more hydel projects on the verge of launching commercial operation are likely to suffer. These projects include 50MW Upper Marshyangdi A, 15MW Hewa Khola A, 10MW Upper Mai, 7MW Mai Cascade, which are scheduled to begin operation in less than a year.
“To address the problem head-on, the government must rope in private companies to build transmission lines of up to 132 kV under build-operate-transfer model. But this would only be a stopgap measure. In the long-run, an independent company (as proposed by the government) must be established,” said Khadga Bahadur Bista, president of the Independent Power Producers’ Association Nepal. “If these measures are not pursued, energy sector may face serious problems in the coming days.” This also means Nepal may not be able to reap proper benefit from power trade pact signed with India, as lack of transmission lines will prevent the country from importing electricity to reduce loadshedding hours.
Source : The Himalayan Times