The Kashmir Valley suffers massive load-shedding, especially during winter when electricity demand rises sharply and generation from hydel plants dips. Transmission constraints hinder import of electricity to the Valley from outside the state, leaving massive power cuts as the only option. According to the Central Electricity Authority, Jammu and Kashmir suffered power shortage of 15.4% during April-December 2015, the highest among all states and union territories except for Andaman and Nicobar.
Power availability to J&K from generating stations is about 1,000 MW. While the state faces serious constraints in adding generation capacity, its power demand is projected to go up to 4,000 MW in the next three years. That means it will have to depend on electricity from outside the state.
The Electricity Act 2003 envisages India as a single, common electricity market and so, power should flow seamlessly across the country without any hindrance. But there are still transmission bottlenecks in certain areas which come in the way of realising this grand vision. Not just non-metered areas, metered localities too have to face long hours of load-shedding. In absence of access to adequate energy, people of J&K are dependent on woods and liquid fuels, especially during the harsh winter.
At present, electricity is imported to the Valley through a transmission corridor that passes through the Pir Panjal, an area prone to landslides. Transmission lines and towers often snap because of landslides. In this context, the Northern Region System Strengthening 29 (NRSS 29) Project, a transmission line that would allow import of 2,000 MW of electricity to the Valley from Punjab, assumes critical significance for the region.
NRSS is the largest private sector transmission project awarded in the country to date. Due to the extreme climatic conditions in J& K, there will be a limited window for construction. But given the priority attached by the Centre to the project, Sterlite Grid, the developer, has expedited implementation work to complete the project nearly one year ahead of schedule–in 40 months as compared to the normal timeframe of 50 months.
Sterlite Grid, along with its technology partner Burns & McDonnell International, a leading global player in transmission and distribution engineering, will use innovative designs and mechanised construction—that is, Heli-crane construction, micro-pile foundations, and special tower designs—to commission the project in a shorter time-frame. Recently, Sterlite Grid also announced a tie-up with US-based Erickson Inc. to install nearly 160 transmission towers in the rough terrain of Pir Panjal ranges, using
Erickson’s S64 Aircrane, a heavy lift helicopter. The company will invest close to R3,000 crore to build this critical asset based on 900 circuit kilometres of transmission lines and a 400 kilovolt gas-insulated substation at Amargarh in north Kashmir.
The NDA government has increased the National Solar Mission target by five times to 1 lakh MW by 2022. To ensure smooth evacuation of this power, the transmission capacity needs to be expanded commensurately. That calls for implementing transmission projects in a fast-track mode.
At Sterlite Grid, we believe that in the coming years, transmission systems will have to be constructed in 12-16 months as against 30-40 months at present.
By Pratik Agrawal
The author is vice-chairman, Sterlite Grid