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NEW DELHI : Driven by strategic concerns, the government has sent a note to the expenditure finance committee (EFC) for the construction of the 900-km power transmission link from Ladakh at an investment of around 22,000 crore, said two government officials aware of the development.

State-run Power Grid Corp. of India Ltd. (PGCIL) has been tasked with building the marquee project that will transmit 10 GW of renewable energy capacity being set up in Ladakh. While the government was earlier considering calling global bids for setting up the link, PGCIL was awarded the project on a ‘nomination basis’ due to security concerns over China. The transmission link will run from Pang in Leh to Kaithal in Haryana, and will have a 12 GWh battery energy storage component.

When the EFC chaired by the expenditure secretary approves the plan, a cabinet note will be circulated for the project which is an important part of India’s plan to develop Ladakh as a carbon-neutral region. The move is also part of the strategy to develop the union territory is likely to attract investment for setting up green energy projects in the cold desert region.

Mint reported on 9 July 2020 about India exploring ways to bar Chinese firms from participating in the mega project. India’s economic strategy of not using Chinese equipment and technology in the power sector is part of a larger response to Chinese aggression in Ladakh. The move comes amid increasing geopolitical uncertainties, and Chinese attempts to target India’s critical infrastructure such as power grids and transportation systems, through cyber attacks.

“A 10,000 MW solar capacity and some wind capacity is being planned in Ladakh. Ladakh gets 310 days of good solar irradiance which will lead to better capacity utilization factor (CUF). Compared to a CUF of 20% elsewhere, CUF there can go up to 24%. The region’s requirement is only 50 MW, that goes up to 80 MW. A green energy corridor will be set up to transfer this electricity to rest of the country," said one of the two government officials cited above, requesting anonymity.

Lower capacity utilization of solar plants at 18-24%, compared with up to 80% in thermal projects, means the transmission cost per unit of power is higher for solar energy.

Queries emailed to the spokespersons of the ministries of power, new and renewable energy, finance and PGCIL on Sunday night remained unanswered till press time.

The project assumes significance as it will help supply power to the people of Leh and Kargil districts, besides defence establishments, during the harsh winters, and also help transmit surplus power to the rest of the country.

However, its construction will be a logistical challenge, considering the region remains snow-covered for nearly six months with very low temperatures and oxygen levels. Ladakh has a solar and wind energy potential of 60 GW and 100 GW, respectively.

Amid continuing tension along the India-China border, India is working on a wider decoupling exercise that involves imposing tariff and non-tariff barriers on Chinese imports, including prior-permission requirements for power equipment imports.

The reorganization of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories has given the Centre direct control over Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. This, in turn, is expected to help speed up approvals for infrastructure projects with the union cabinet last year approving the establishment of an Integrated Multi-purpose Infrastructure Development Corporation in Ladakh.

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