Mai Hydropower sitting idle for lack of power line

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    mai hydro headworksKATHMANDU, OCT 20 – The construction of the Maikhola Hydropower Project has been completed, but it is not certain when the power generated by it will be fed into the national grid as the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) has not finished erecting the necessary transmission line.

    In addition, the 22 MW project situated in eastern Nepal may experience cost overruns even though it is claimed to be one of the few private sector projects being completed on time and within the initial cost estimate. The project’s power is planned to be evacuated by a 132 kV transmission line known as the Kabeli corridor whose revised completion date is July 2015.

    Subarna Das Shrestha, chief executive officer of Sanima Mai Hydropower Company that

    developed the project, said that they had completed a dry test of the project and it was ready for energy generation.

    The NEA’s failure to complete the construction of the transmission line has caused a huge loss to the project. The project was initiated with an investment of Rs 3.14 billion. “Inability to generate energy means a revenue loss of around Rs 50 million per month,” said Shrestha, adding that the project would have to pay around Rs 310 million in interest at an average interest rate of 10 percent per annum.

    According to Shrestha, they have completed the construction of an 11-km-long power line to transmit the energy generated, and the NEA now needs to build a 34-km transmission line to carry the energy to the Ilam substation.

    The Kabeli corridor transmission line will connect 90 MW of aggregated electricity generated by nine different projects to the national grid. As per the time line, the construction of the Kabeli corridor should have been completed by July this year. However, the NEA, which is responsible for its construction, has extended the deadline by a year to July 2015.

    As per the progress being made, the NEA expects to complete the first phase of the transmission line by December 25. So far, the foundations of 85 towers out of the planned 270 towers have been laid, and the construction of 35 towers has been completed.

    According to Kanaiya Kumar Manandhar, deputy managing director at the NEA, the state-owned power utility will facilitate the project with a transmission line within December.

    “We have speeded up the foundation design and its construction. Post-Tihar, the task of erecting the towers and connecting them with electric cables will start,” said Manandhar. He added that if the NEA failed to do so, 7-8 MW of the electricity generated by Sanima Mai would be evacuated through an alternative line from Godakh to Puwa Khola. The Godakh-Puwa Khola link is expected to be completed within two weeks.

    According to Shrestha, if the NEA fulfils its promise to complete the construction of the transmission line by December, Sanima Mai will start power generation by January 2015. “It will take around a month to complete the generation test. Once this is done, we will start generating electricity,” said Shrestha. He added that if the NEA failed to do so, they would be compelled to remain happy evacuating 7-8 MW of power through the alternative line as proposed by the NEA.

    According to Shrestha, connecting the transmission line to the project will not be complicated with locals making investments in the project. “Since the locals have invested money, there won’t be a problem in the construction of the transmission line,” he said.

    The hydropower project has been built with 70 percent of the financing made by non-resident Nepalis (NRN), 10 percent by the locals and 20 percent by the general public through an initial public offering.

    Meanwhile, concerned by the delay in the construction of the power line, the parliamentary Agriculture and Water Resource Committee (AWRC) has directed the NEA to complete the first phase of the construction of Kabeli by December 25.

    “The uncertainty over the transmission line is likely to push back the construction of hydro projects. Mostly, the problems have been caused by lack of coordination between government agencies and the legal mechanism. Hence, the government should be proactive to solve the matter,” said AWRC Chairperson Gagan Thapa.

    The committee has also directed the NEA to keep it constantly informed about the issue, and has pledged to do everything to help the NEA and the project. “We will even consult with the Prime Minister if needed,” Thapa said.

    Source : eKantipur