New Delhi: State-owned Power Grid Corp. of India Ltd (PGCIL) will be commissioning by 2016 four strategic electricity transmission links planned for the North-East and neighbouring Bhutan to supply power to other parts of India, chairman and managing director R.N. Nayak said.
The projects, planned in 2009, would result in transmission of 6,000MW of electricity generated by hydropower projects, enough to meet the power demand of Delhi. More electricity in the grid will help avoid a blackout such as the one that affected several states on 31 July and 1 August 2012, and caused an estimated $2 billion (around Rs.13,200 crore today) in losses.
“While the two links of 1,500MW each from the NorthEast region will be completed in 2014-15 financial year, the two links of 1,500MW each for evacuation of power from Bhutan will be completed in the 2015-16 fiscal,” said Nayak. The North-East faces transmission constraints and the total off-peak surplus power trade was only in the region of 500MW last year, resulting in revenue of around Rs.260 crore. “These two links of 1,500MW each will provide a lifeline for the North-East region,” said Nayak.
The planned commissioning of the projects comes against the backdrop of the central government stepping up efforts to develop infrastructure in a region that has often complained of being neglected. The development of infrastructure in the North-East is also key to India’s so-called Look East policy—a focus on South-East Asia.
Some of the important projects planned for the region include the 670km East-West corridor, connecting state capitals with a broad gauge railway network, developing air transportation infrastructure such as a new airport in Itanagar, and inland waterway development.
“Transmission connectivity between Bhutan with India and the North-East of India with the rest of the country will give large hydro projects the required market access,” said Debasish Mishra, senior director at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India Pvt. Ltd, an audit and consultancy firm. “However, in the next four to five years, we are not expecting much of these hydropower capacities to come up.”
Transmitting the electricity through the Chicken’s Neck, a 22km strip that tenuously connects the North-East with the rest of the country, has been a major constraint for the transmission of power from the region.
This corridor was created in 1947 to connect the North-East with the rest of India. Sandwiched between Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan—with many sensitive installations in the vicinity—this area is classified as sensitive.
The potential of the northeastern states and Bhutan for hydropower generation is about 58,000MW. There have been concerns about faltering hydropower generation in the country, accounting as it does for 39,623.40MW, or 17.55% of India’s 225,793.10MW power generating capacity.
Bhutan, strategically located between India and China, has the potential to generate 30,000MW of hydropower but has a capacity of just 1,490MW. Apart from hydropower projects, India has also helped Bhutan build the Penden cement plant, Paro airport and the Bhutan Broadcasting Station.
The transmission links from Bhutan will help boost India’s efforts to step up energy diplomacy in the neighbourhood. India is helping Bhutan build 10,000MW of hydropower with concessional finance, with the overall investment expected to be about $10 billion. Around 90% of the power generated through these projects will be sold to India, which already has power grid links with Bhutan, to meet the country’s growing energy demand.