PowerGrid has an ambitious plan for global expansion in transmission

Updated: Nov 27 2006, 05:57am hrs
The state-run PowerGrid Corporation is currently in the midst of developing a national transmission grid to achieve inter-regional capacity of 37,000 mwby 2012 and 1,50,000 mw by 2030. Undeterred by the decision of the Centre and the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission to involve the private sector in the national grid programme, the company is gearing itself to face the competition. Moreover, the PowerGrid is pursuing plans to own transmission networks abroad. In an exclusive interview, PowerGrid Corporation CMD RP Singh, who is completing 10 years at the helm, speaks to Sanjay Jog. Excerpts:

The Electricity Act 2003 has brought about many changes in the power sector Whats the role assigned to the PowerGrid

We have been assigned the role of the central transmission utility (CTU) by the Centre under the Electricity Act 2003. The Corporation is entitled to do project planning, preparation and undertake execution of transmission for inter-state and inter-regional transmission lines culminating in a national grid. As there is a lot of backlog in the transmission sector, PowerGrid alone would not be able to take up all projects. Further, the Act envisages private sector participation in the transmission system. As directed by CERC, PowerGrid recently invited competitive bids for two phases of the western region transmission project costing nearly Rs 2,000 crore. Reliance Energy Ltd outbid eight other companies when the financial bids were opened.

Can you share details of the national grid as PowerGrid is involved in its development

The present national grid of 11,000 mw would be increased to around 18,000 mw by 2007. It would be increased to 37,000 mw by 2012. It is estimated that a grid capacity of 1,50,000 mw would be needed by 2030. The investment needed by 2012 would be Rs 70,000 crore. By 2030, Rs 1.50 lakh crore would be required at todays prices.

PowerGrid has approached the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank for a loan of $3.2 billion to finance the national grid project. Of the Rs 70,000 crore investment, the Corporation will invest Rs 50,000 crore and the remaining Rs 20,000 crore will come from the private sector or through the joint venture route.

Moreover, transmission being a regulated business, PowerGrid has to necessarily look for supplementary efforts to the extent of 25 to 30% from private investors.

Is PowerGrid prepared for competition from the private sector

We would welcome competition for it is necessary for any organisation or individual to keep itself fit, alert and healthy. Competition sharpens the management skills and creates convergence. PowerGrid has discharged its role successfully by undertaking coordinated development of the power transmission network along with effective and transparent operation of the grid with the desired stability, reliability and availability despite a continuing gap in supply and demand.

What about the PowerGrids international assignments

We have got a number of assignments in the neighbouring countries, such as in Nepal and Bhutan and are also involved in building the transmission system in Afghanistan to bring power from Uzbekistan.

The PowerGrid has undertaken numerous transmission projects. Can you share some of the details

We are gearing up to take up an assignment to construct transmission lines from Srinagar to Kargil which has a terrain akin to that in the Hindu Kush. The project entails an investment of around Rs 600 crore. Moreover, we are involved in the evacuation of the Dulhasti hydro power project in Jammu & Kashmir and also the evacuation of power generated from other power projects in the Kashmir valley. The transmission line for Dulhasti has been commissioned. As for the second system, the Corporation will invest Rs 600 crore. These projects will give a big push to the development of J&K.

In what way is the PowerGrid involved in the transmission of power from upcoming ultra-mega projects

PowerGrid by virtue of statutory requirements, has to undertake the development of transmission systems and oversee their development. We are fully prepared to take up transmission projects for the Sasan and Mundra ultra mega power projects. This apart, PowerGrid is going to adopt higher and higher voltages in high voltage direct current (HVDC) such as plus/minus 800 kV HVDC.

What are PowerGrids future plans

Apart from transmission assignments in India, PowerGrid has filed a bid for the management of the transmission system in Nigeria. It will also take up assignments in USA where over $4 trillion worth of transmission system work needs to be undertaken. PowerGrid has also worked out an ambitious plan for expansion within India and globally in transmission, load management and consultancy. We will also take up projects to own transmission systems in underdeveloped, developing and developed countries.

We have been awarded the national long distance (NLD) licence for its proposed foray into the telecom business. In the post-NLD period, the PowerGrid Corporation is eyeing more options and opportunities in termsof customer segments, increase in customer base and providing value-added services to the customers directly.

PowerGrid has immediate plans to provide services to various corporate and government agencies after the NLD licence. The licence will also enable PowerGrid to address the bandwidth requirement of those corporate customers who could not be served under the present IP-II, IP-I and ISP licences. The new licence, it is envisaged, will increase utilisation of the PowerGrids telecom network.