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More green energy shrinks transmission projects’ timeline

According to reports, in less than a year, the country’s renewable energy capacity has grown 29 per cent, to 50 gigawatt (Gw). Expansion here and the focus on developing wind and solar power is also shrinking the time frame to set up related transmission networks.

At present, thermal power contributes 69 per cent to India’s total installed capacity.  As the country planned capacity additions in the thermal and hydropower segment, it also allowed transmission companies a longer time frame. This is now changing.

“The construction of new lines (for hydro and thermal) might take three to five years, while construction of a new solar photovoltaic (PV) power plant might only take a year or a little more,” said Vivek Sharma, director at CRISIL Infrastructure Advisory.

Transmission companies are seeing this translate in the orders being placed by clients.

“Almost all our clients are working towards reducing the project timelines,” said Manish Mohnot, managing director, Kalpataru Power Transmission.

This has led companies to focus further on technology upgradation and personnel. “Cutting-edge technology and talent are two key elements to overcome the challenges of energy delivery. We are heavily investing in technology to plan and execute transmission projects successfully,” said Pratik Agarwal, chief executive officer, Sterlite Power. In the past one year, India’s renewable energy capacity increased to 50,018 megawatt (Mw) from 38,821.5 Mw. In February, the country doubled its solar park power capacity target to 40 Gw by 2020, from 20 Gw. The 2020 target for wind power is set at 60 Gw.

“It is logical, with a centrally planned approach, to commence grid construction some time before the PV power plant. Recent initiatives have endeavoured to add to this approach with more proactive, long-term planning, such as the Green Corridors Report which has identified key renewable pockets. Accordingly, PowerGrid had started the exercise for developing associated transmission infrastructure well in advance to the actual development of solar projects,” said Sharma from CRISIL.

Officials from PowerGrid are confident that transmission lines would be ready in time for evacuation of power, as the renewable energy capacity goes onstream. “This is being achieved through two ways. One is the Green Corridor programme, which has planned for transmission lines in advance. Second, by executing projects in a modular system, taking the transmission project phase by phase with the generation project,” said I S Jha, chairman of PowerGrid.

However, transmission companies could face challenges beyond their control. “The total time from planning to commission of a transmission project is largely dependent on various external factors such as land acquisition, access to infrastructure needs, financing availability etc. Unless these external challenges are mitigated, the time available to set up transmission lines is unlikely to shrink,” said Sharma.

Mukund Sapre, managing director, IL&FS Engineering and Construction, added: “Towards the end of 2015, the ministry of power issued guidelines for uniform compensation (for land acquired). This is still to be adopted at all projects.”

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