KATHMANDU, DEC 15 –
Despite objection from all quarters, the Ministry of Energy (MoE) on Friday decided to forward a proposal for the capacity upgradation of the Upper Trishuli 3 A project to the Cabinet .
Capacity upgradation of the project is what the Chinese contractor, China Gezhouba Group Co Ltd, has long been demanding. The ministry decided to upgrade Upper Trishuli 3A from 60 MW to 90 MW through a ministry-level decision although Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai had assured former energy ministers that he would take a decision with their consensus. Prime Minister Bhattarai is also looking after the energy portfolio.
Energy Secretary Hari Ram Koirala said the proposal would be submitted to the Cabinet on Sunday. “Although we had planned to submit the proposal on Friday, we could not do so due to the lack of time. We will submit it on Sunday.”
Approving the upgradation plan, MoE has bypassed the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) board. A majority of NEA board members are against the idea and the board had rejected the plan twice.
According to NEA officials, the capacity upgradation does not contribute much to resolving the power shortage, as the additional energy will be available only during the wet season. The government has to invest an additional Rs 4 billion and the project will be delayed by two more years. “The upgradation plan is meaningless. Energy demand is high during the dry season, when the project will be operating at its lowest capacity,” said a senior NEA official.
NEA officials said the existing contract — engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) — with the Chinese contractor does not allow making any changes to it. “The project’s capacity upgradation is also against the Public Procurement Act,” said the NEA official.
It’s already been more than a year since the construction of the project started. As per the initial plan, the project was to be completed by May 2014. But now, due to capacity upgradation, it will take another two years for completion.
According to NEA, a majority of under-construction projects are scheduled to be completed by 2017. And if it happens, the country will see 3 billion units of power surplus during wet season. Since Upper Trishuli 3A, after upgradation, will be completed by the time, the additional energy produced (30 MW) will be of no use. “The upgradation will only benefit those who have vested interest in the project, including the contractor,” said another NEA official.
According to NEA, the Chinese contractor has already increased the cost for the upgradation. It had initially quoted Rs 2 billion, but now has doubled the cost to Rs 4 billion. “The additional Rs 2 billion will be misused,” said the official.
The Detailed Project Report for the project was carried out in 2007 and the tender was completed in 2010.
Source : The Kathmandu Post