Manish Agarwal, CEO - Solution Business, Sterlite Power Transmission
Tell us about the solution offered by Sterlite Power in Elecrama?
We have taken a big leap from the previous year's Elecrama wherein we displayed innovative solution for transmission, sub transmission and distributionùboth for overhead and underground. That apart, we are also offering optical ground wire (OPGW) on robotics for which we have recently applied patent.
In India, one of the challenges for transmission projects is right of way (ROW). And, it takes minimum three-four years from various department such as environment and forest department to receive the necessary permissions. So, we decided to provide our solutions to existing transmission lines which are way older than a teenager, once upgraded, it can be in workable mode for another 30 years. We have made a detailed presentation to the Ministry of Power, and are seeking support in this direction where instead of constructing new transmission lines, the government should give emphasis on the existing corridor to enhance the capabilities and capacities.
How challenging was the task to make state transcos understand about revamping existing lines?
When we started providing solutions for revamping of transmission lines five-six years back, there was a strong resistance from utilities and transcos' questioning our products and hardware.
However, in the last five years, the country has leapfrogged by adopting such technologies for better results. And now, it's not just Sterlite but other players too which have capacities and capabilities to provide such solution to power utilities.
With our advanced solutions, we have changed conductors to high-performance conductor for many state transmission lines. Besides this, we have also changed earth wire to optical ground wire at one stretch. So, in just three-four months time, the unities in the states like Goa and Maharashtra are experiencing better power output than before.
For instance, three years back Power Grid Corporation awarded a project for Delhi Transco to Sterlite wherein their transmission lines were running at 600 amperes. However, with revamping of the same lines, now, it is running at 1,200 amperes. That is what utilities are gaining.
In terms of cost benefit analysis, it looks like a huge investment, but at least as compared to capex, it is not. And, the maximum return period is one-three years.
As far as challenge is concerned, it's mainly the time window. Here, to revamp transmission lines, the discom allow only five-six hours of window. However, utilities have been cooperative.
Nevertheless, the company is now working on technologies where you will shortly witness minimal shutdown to the level of 15-20 minutes. And we will change the transmission line into high-performance conductor. So, that is the kind of solution we are going to offer to the country very soon.
UDAY aims primarily at reducing aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) losses. How do you plan to help state utilities reduce losses?
AT&C losses are the major concern of this country, of which, India is facing tremendous commercial losses than the technical. Nevertheless, we have solutions to bring down the AT&C losses further from the current level. This will help to eliminate the technical losses, but not commercial. There are lot of tenders of Power Grid Corporation and Inter-State Transmission System (ISTS) projects that have included loss capitalisation within the tender, which is helping the utilities to minimise their technical losses.
Can you tell us what kind of opportunities the sector has and how is the market trend considering a temporary lull in this sector?
For a couple of years, we haven't seen much of traction in the transmission sector. But, it's an investment cycle where for three-four years, the country will witness heavy investment and then for minimum two years it tanks. Today's position may not be rosy as project approval from the Centre was timid. But, one should not blame the central government for this lull as even state government is equally responsible given that their envisaged capex vis-a-viz actual is not even matching.
Since the government has models like BOOM and BOT, why doesn't state apply the same to implement transmission project, is a question. Such models will help state government to raise funds from multilateral financial agencies like Asian Development Bank. This will ensure state government to deliver the lines in time without any delays.
Sterlite is the only company to have invested in Brazil investing sizeable amount of funds in transmission projects on BOOM base model. If you see Brazil, they are thinking five years ahead of India and so much of investment is happening in the transmission side apart from hydro generation. So, whatever is happening outside, we should be able to learn and at least try to replicate in India. It's high time there should be policies around and there should be focus given to transmission not just generation and distribution.
As an industry player, what is the right energy mix for India in the coming years?
I do not have expertise on that side. The biggest thing is lower dependency on fossil fuels. In the renewable energy space, considering 175 GW of addition by 2020, the government must be watchful and make it a success story.
We are in the right direction as far as our RE targets are concerned. The government must also take care of the neglected hydro sector. In the last couple of years, we have witnessed many projects getting stalled, despite having expertise and favourable conditions. So, hydro generation should get a boost and there is a revamp required around policies to kick off the big plans which are stalled. In addition to this, government must start thinking of constructing new transmission lines so that players like us get busy for another three-four years.
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