May 02

Renewable power developers headed for transmission woes

BENGALURU: Renewable energy developers are worried that transmission facilities are not keeping pace with power generation even as 12,000 MW of solar projects under construction and another 7,000 MW of wind projects have been bid out since wind auctions began in February 2017.  Developers expressed fear that completed projects might not be able to start functioning because all ‘bays’ at the nearest substations are already occupied and transmission lines already carrying their full capacity at a recent meeting of developers and officials across concerned government agencies in Delhi. A second meeting of all stakeholders to discuss this issue alone was held on Friday.   

“The main reason is that so far there has been no coordination between ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE), Power Grid Corporation of India (PGCIL) and Central Electricity Authority (CEA), all of whose representatives were present at the meeting,” said a developer who attended both the meetings. “Solar Corporation of India (SECI), which is under MNRE, has been merrily holding auctions for both wind and solar projects without making sure that enough evacuation facilities are available.”   

According to the developer, CEA and PGCIL representatives at the first meeting claimed they had not been told that so many auctions would be held, while SECI official maintained that getting connectivity was the developers’ problem, not the corporation’s.   

PGCIL and SECI did not respond to ET queries as of press time Sunday.  The problem is most acute in Gujarat where, according to one developer, over 2,000 MW of wind projects are being built, but substations can only accommodate 400 MW, industry insiders said.   

They said the solution lies in building more substations and transmission lines, but the process will take much longer than the time the currently under-construction projects take to get completed. 

“With the private sector having been allowed into this segment, auctions will have to be held for the construction of substations, with PGCIL competing against private players,” said the developer quoted earlier. “Getting the substations actually built will take at least three years. Our projects have to be ready in 18 months or less, according to the power purchase agreements (PPAs) we have signed,” the person said.   

Some developers suggested doing away with the bidding through a government ordinance and assigning the task entirely to PGCIL, which, if it starts work immediately, could have the substations ready earlier.   

However, PGCIL builds substations and transmission lines only for inter-state links, while state transmission units (STUs) are responsible for intra-state ones, and these too will need to work on a war footing to meet the requirements of new projects.   

“Implementation of the green energy corridor project, meant specifically to connect renewable energy plants to the national grid, needs to be speeded up,” said an industry insider.   

In 2017-18, 350 circuit km of transmission lines were installed under the green energy corridor project, with 1,900 circuit km targeted in 2018-19. However, the parliamentary standing committee on energy has recently pointed out that, given the target, the budget allocation of Rs 6 billion for 2018-19 is far too low.   

The mismatch between MNRE and PGCIL is all the more glaring considering that the problem has arisen despite PGCIL performing well on targets it had set itself. 

In the first eight months of 2017-18, by end November, PGCIL had laid a total of 13,820 circuit km of new transmission lines, achieving 59.9% of its annual target, and set up new substations with an additional capacity of 50,805 mega volt-amperes (MVA), which is 94.1% of its annual target.   

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