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Interaction | August 2015

Let´s have plug and play in the transmission sector

Sharan Bansal, Director, Skipper Ltd feels that the government must incentivise use of monopoles in place of lattice towers which have lesser ground coverage.

Where are we placed in terms of inter-state transmission networks?
We have recently seen quite a few new transmission system projects being announced. For e.g. the Rs 10,000 crore North Eastern Region Power System Improvement Project (NERPSIP) and the 800 kV 6,000 MW HVDC Raigarh´Pugalur Transmission project. The tri-furcation of the SEB´s into gencos, transcos and discoms has also been good for the sector and we see transmission activity picking up substantially from the states too.

A nationwide synchronous power grid, interconnecting all five regional grids, has been established with the commissioning of 765 kV S/c Raichur´Sholapur line on December 31, 2013. As on December 31, 2014, a National Grid with inter-regional power transfer capacity of about 46,450 MW has been established. Inter-regional power transfer capacity is envisaged to be augmented to about 72,250 MW by the end of the 12th Plan.

Despite installed capacity, transmission infrastructure has not received due attention.
All stakeholders are now realising the importance of transmission investment. For every Rupee spent in generation capacity, at least 50 paise must be spent on T&D investment to ensure smooth power supply. Also, transmission capacity must be planned 4-5 years in advance because with Right of Way (ROW) issues as project commissioning in a shorter period is challenging.

What factor can make transmission projects more financially viable?
Just like GoI has adopted ´plug and play´mode for generation projects with land and other clearances in place before project bidding, a similar policy for transmission will bode well for the sector, which will greatly reduce the uncertainties that bidders face right now.

List out ´structural reforms´ to change the transmission sector?
We believe that new transmission lines should be made exempt from forest clearance as they have minimal impact on the eco-system. Forest clearance today is the biggest reason for delay in commissioning. Also, the government must plan for many more ´Green Corridor´ projects in the 765 kV D/C category to cater to the planned 100,000 MW RE generation. Finally, they must incentivise use of monopoles in place of lattice towers which have lesser ground coverage.

List your agendas to wake up this government from slumber?
There are still few pertinent issues bothering the power industry which the government must address in order to match up to the increasing demand.

I would be eager to see them bring in some favourable policy frameworks, which when implemented address ROW issues and drive the concept of long distance high capacity transmission corridors, besides chalking out a decisive action plan to further strengthen our National Grid. We would also like concrete policy steps to be taken, to persuade best practices in the T&D system with increased implementation of better technology.

Also, there are multiple issues with land policies in India. We don´t have the concept of acquiring land corridor for any transmission project, government must mandate all local bodies (panchayats, DM´s) to facilitate resolving of ROW problems that crop up.

There have been instances of transmission lines being forced to take a different route than planned owing to severe ROW issues in just a few tower locations, resulting in the entire project budget going out of control.

Do you sense growing private sector interest in this space despite the banking fraternity´s reluctance?
The interest is definitely high due to positive announcements made by the government. Skipper is one of the top three players in the transmission space and one of the fastest growing companies in India and Latin American markets. PGCIL is our biggest customer, and thus at present we stand to benefit the most.

The government has also taken the right steps in limiting PGCIL´s role in projects awarded on TBCB route (tariff based competitive bidding), which will further encourage more quality private transmission operators to enter this sector and develop lines faster.

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