While Green Energy Corridor may enhance transmission grid to a greater extent, the evacuation issues faced by the renewable energy segment may not get fully resolved in the near future.
India as a country has been harnessing renewable energy (RE) segment to meet its energy requirements for the last three decades. Solar energy is the latest addition to the pack, and capacity addition is faster than any other segment.
India looked at RE owing to depleting fossil fuel resources/the high cost of fossil fuel import. The country has been successful in its endeavour as it had added over 60 GW of RE into its grid in the recent past. The government further persuades the capacity addition in this segment as part of its commitment to address climate change. India has an ambitious plan of adding 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022.
Power demand is growing steadfast, and it is imperative to establish a robust, stable and reliable transmission grid. Though establishing renewable power parks are relatively less time-consuming than conventional energy power plants, evacuation is a significant challenge. Any potential infirmity in renewable energy is regarded as the foremost challenge in getting RE connected to the grid.
Interestingly, the quantum of grid-connected renewable energy is growing steadily. The country follows the merit order system when it comes to evacuation and renewables gets the priority. State wise, all regulators follow the merit order system and as renewable energy has no variable cost involved and thus has a higher merit order. However, power sector's fragility is making it difficult for scheduling, for that Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) of-late has issued numerous favourable regulations. But, the developers of renewable energy are of the opinion that this may not be enough.
This demand has led to the announcement of Green Energy Corridor (GEC). In order to enhance the flow of renewable energy into the transmission grid. In 2013, India had announced the National Green Corridor Program (NGCP) worth Rs 430 billion. This dedicated transmission network for RE is being envisaged by Power Grid Corporation of India(PGCIL).
The corridor will enable renewable energy flow into the National Grid Network. It will act as a dedicated transmission network for RE across different RE potential states. It will also facilitate evacuation from solar parks and large-scale grid-connected solar and wind projects. The corridor is expected to boost the inter-state sale of RE thereby helping states to fulfil their renewable purchase obligations (RPOs).
The corridor will be established in two phases; the phase-1 will have a transmission capacity of 33 GW and Phase-2 to have a 22-GW capacity.
'Post Electricity Act 2003 and open access system, a lot has been changed for the electricity segment in the country. What the country requires right now is plug and play system for which a fair amount of spare capacity is required which currently is not there. There are bottlenecks in transmission,' pointed out VP Raja, former Chairman of Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission.
While he admits the issues in transmission, he elaborated on the much graver issue in transmission. He added, 'Land is a problem. Setting up of transmission lines has its set of problems, Right of Way (RoW) as land is scarce. Most of the transmission lines pass through non-agri land, but there are potions of which passes through agricultural land or urban land. Why you plan for 100 km of lines and end up doing only 20 km, is because of the issue of RoW.
'For public places which are directly under the control of the government (bus stations, railway stations, river, canals, government office's rooftops), not an issue. But otherwise, acquisition of land continues to be an issue. This is the reason you see the solar parks coming up in areas like Rajasthan or Ladakh etc. You produce it there; they are not consumption points. They need to transmit it over long distances.'
Sanjeev Aggarwal, Managing Director and CEO, Amplus Energy Solutions pointed out the three steps that can address the issues in renewable energy transmission in the country. He said, 'Priority scheduling is given to renewable energy to avoid curtailment issues given insufficient transmission capacity. Grid balancing or grid management to accommodate the increasing amount of erratic and fluctuating power from renewable energy and keep the supply in sync with demand. Promoting decentralised generation wherein the point of consumption and generation is the same thereby reducing the dependency and load on the transmission system.'
Progress on GEC
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has announced an assistance of US $1 billion for the renewable energy transmission, grid expansion in India. According to a release from the ADB, a US-$500-million government-backed loan and the further US $500 million in non-sovereign lending to PGCIL.
The funds will primarily be used to build and upgrade high-voltage transmission lines, and substations in Rajasthan and Punjab states, as part of the Indian government's Green Energy Corridor initiative.
Though the loan was announced in 2015, in the second half of 2017, ADB had agreed to finance additional power transmission network components with co-financing from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) that will connect with an ADB-financed Green Energy Corridor and Grid Strengthening Project in India.
According to a release from the bank, the project will now be expanded to include 400-kilovolt transmission components in Tamil Nadu to connect at Pugalur with the long-distance grid systems financed by ADB. ADB will provide $50 million from savings from the earlier loans while AIIB's Board of Directors have approved co-financing of $100 million for this component, which has a total cost of $303.5 million. PGCIL will finance the remaining.
'We are pleased that this first AIIB co-financed project in India will bring clean energy to more people and help the country achieve its ambitious renewable energy targets. We look forward to broadening our partnership with AIIB in the coming years,' said Priyantha Wijayatunga, Director of ADB's Energy Division in its South Asia Department.
In addition to this, India will also receive Euro 1 billion soft loan for 'Green Energy Corridors' from Germany. In a written reply to Loksabha, Minister for State (IC) for Power, Coal, New and Renewable Energy and Mines, Piyush Goyal said, in order to facilitate integration of large-scale renewable generation capacity addition, a comprehensive scheme including intra-state and inter-state transmission system has been annnounced as part of 'Green Energy Corridors'. And, for the funding of green energy corridors, under the framework of cooperation between India and Germany, KfW Germany is providing soft loan to the tune of Euro 1 billion. Intra-state transmission schemes under GEC) are to be funded as 20 per cent equity of the state, 40 per cent grant from National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF) and 40 per cent soft loan, whereas, the inter-state transmission schemes are to be funded as 30 per cent equity by PGCIL and 70 per cent as soft loan, he added.
As per a press release, for inter-state transmission projects pertaining to Part A, B and C of GEC, a loan agreement for financial assistance of Euro 500 million from KfW, Germany has been signed by PGCIL, and the projects are likely to be completed by 2018. Further, for implementation of transmission schemes under Green Energy Corridor-Part D, PGCIL has taken the loan from ADB.
For intra-state transmission projects under GEC; Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh have signed the loan agreements from KfW, Germany for financial assistance of Euro 76 million, Euro 49 million, Euro 57 million, Euro 68 million, Euro 114 million and Euro 124 million respectively.
Further, Goyal added that in order to integrate solar parks with the grid, Ministry of Power assigned PGCIL to implement inter-state transmission scheme for evacuation from eight solar parks (7,200 MW). Transmission scheme for six solar parks (5,750 MW) is already under implementation [Ananthapuram (1,500 MW), Pavagada (2,000 MW), Rewa (750 MW), Bhadla-III (500 MW), Bhadla-IV (250 MW), Essel Saurya (750 MW)]. Tender issued for Banaskantha Solar Park (700 MW), whereas Long-Term Access (LTA) application for other MP solar park from the developer is awaited.
To evacuate power from the renewable capacity addition in renewable-rich states (Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu), transmission system strengthening, both intra-state and inter-state, along with setting up of Renewable Energy Management Centre (REMC) and the control infrastructure is being implemented under GECs.
India and Germany have
also signed an agreement on technical cooperation under the Indo-German Energy Programme - Green Energy Corridors (IGEN-GEC).The agreement was signed between India's Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) and Deutsche Gesellschaft fnr Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH India on behalf of Germany.
This programme aims to support the implementation of India's Renewable Energy Management Centre (REMCs), Green Energy Corridors scheme which is prerequisite for large-scale grid integration of renewable energy to achieve the 175-GW target for renewable energy generation capacity by 2022.
The work of the Green Energy corridor was kick-started in May 2017. The 800-kV Raigarh-Pugalur ultrahigh-voltage direct current (UHVDC) will connect central India to southern India. The 1,800 km long project is being handled by ABB in partnership with BHEL for PGCIL.
Aggarwal pointed out, 'The Green Energy Corridor is expected to come online by March 2020 with the first phase of inter-state transmission network completed by the end of 2018. A total of 8,500 ckt-kms of transmission lines is to be installed by 2020 with an approx. Investment of Rs 380 billion. Out of this, 350 ckt-kms has been installed in 2017-18, 1,900 ckt-kms is to come up in 2018-19 and remaining 5,500 ckt-kms of lines is to be installed in 2019-20. Although a lot of progress has been made, and funds have been allocated for 2018-19 as well, but there is a mismatch between this year's goal and the corresponding funds allocated. Also, the progress made so far and the huge capacity target ahead might shift the deadline further away.'
Raja added, 'In the plug and play system, one is not bothered who is injecting electricity and where. They are interested in people injecting it and withdrawing it from the grid. At the conceptional, it is perfectly defined, but practically, it is work in progress. We are in transition.'
'This is not all; there are other issues like quality control, there is a bit of maintenance involved as well, you need to wash it up (panels needs to be cleaned regularly with water). It will be difficult to get the RE evacuation issue resolved in the next three to five years.'
Raja signed off by saying, GEC is the appropriate step in the right direction.
Aggarwal added on the role of technology in RE integration to the grid by saying adopting digital tools for more efficient grid management system is the need of the hour. In addition to this, technology can play crucial role in establishing RE management centres at load dispatch centres to control RE inflow and outflow in the system. And, promoting decentralised systems (with storage) to decrease dependency on the transmission network.
However, the question if these additions in transmission are sufficient for India given its fast-paced RE capacity addition- still seeks to be answered.
- Renjini Liza Varghese
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