Kathmandu: Nepal’s aim of boosting power trade with India may be short-circuited unless it strengthens its power transmission infrastructure, experts say.
During his visit to India that ended on Thursday, Nepal Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal invited investments in his country’s hydropower sector, pledging to work towards harnessing 10,000MW of power in the next 10 years.
Untapped potential: Existing transmission lines are inadequate to transmit the current quantum of electricity flowing between the two neighbours, and work on the proposed 220 kilovolt link is yet to show any progress. Ramesh Pathania / Mint
“Even as we keep talking about increasing the power trade between the two countries, there is a constraint because of the existing transmission link,” said an executive of India’s power trading solutions provider PTC India Ltd, who asked not to be named.
While existing transmission lines are inadequate to transmit the current quantum of electricity flowing between the two neighbours, work on the proposed 220 kilovolt (kV) transmission link is yet to show any progress, the PTC India executive said.
The companies setting up the new transmission link are Nepal Electricity Authority, the largest power utility in Nepal, PTC India, infrastructure development and financing firm IL&FS and state-run Power Grid Corp. of India Ltd. “There are currently only two links of 132kV each. While work on the proposed new link began in 2006, nothing has moved further due to the turmoil in Nepal,” the official said.
A Nepal government official, who did not wish to be named, said the work on the new link is set for rapid progress, though he admits the existing lines are not enough to carry surplus power between the two countries.
The new link is expected to transmit around 500-600MW of power between India and Nepal through four dedicated 220kV transmission lines. The existing link supports transmission of only 50MW.
Nepal has an installed capacity of 617MW, of which around 569.87MW is generated from hydropower. Although Nepal has 83,000MW of hydropower potential, it is facing a shortage of 100MW, which is expected to increase to around 300MW in the coming winters, according to the Nepalese official.
To make matters difficult, the investment in hydropower projects in Nepal is around Rs12 crore per megawatt due to inaccessibility of project sites, compared with Rs5 crore per megawatt in India.
“There is great deal of power deficit and poor levels of electrification in Nepal. The country’s hydropower potential is yet to be exploited, with their power sector showing slow levels of progress,” said Anish De, chief executive officer of Mercados Asia, an energy consulting firm.
Nepal has emerged as a favourite destination for several Indian hydroelectric power generation firms due to its huge untapped potential.
The companies that have plans to set up hydroelectric projects in that country include Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd, Bhilwara Energy Ltd and GMR Infrastructure Ltd.