Over half of the interregional power transmission projects awarded under the tariff-based competitive bidding (TBCB) mechanism are facing right-of-way challenges, a study by T&D India suggests. The basic data for the study was obtained from official reports released by Central Electricity Authority.
In its report dated October 2017, which normally has data up to September 30, 2017, the CEA report observed that there were 20 TBCB-mode power transmission projects under construction, which included partially commissioned projects. Out of these, 13 projects were affected by either right-of-way challenges or were experiencing delays with respect to forest clearance. In many cases, this was adversely affecting the commissioning schedule. It should be also noted that many of the projects not affected by RoW constraints were actually in the survey stage, and had not yet begun physical activity.
One project where serious RoW constraints persist is the transmission scheme for evacuation of power from various IPPs in Nagapattinam/Cuddalore area of Tamil Nadu. The project is being developed by Powergrid Nagapattinam-Madhugiri Transmission Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd (PGCIL). The project involves two components—a 765kV double-circuit line from Nagapattinam Pooling Station to Salem; and a 765kV single-circuit line from Salem to Madhugiri. While the first component was commissioned in October 2016, the second has been seriously affected by RoW issues. As against the scheduled commissioning date of December 2015, the project is anticipated to complete only by March 2018. Severe RoW constraints are being faced in the Karnataka portion where 130km of the line lies. Work has come to a standstill in Ramnagar and Tumkur districts for several months now. Matters have come to such a pass that the Prime Minister, during his visit to the state in August this year, has directed the Karnataka Chief Secretary to resolve the RoW issue in two months.
One more notable example is the 400kV Samba-Amargarh double-circuit line of 562 ckm, which is taking shape in Jammu & Kashmir. This line is part of the Northern Region System Strengthening Scheme (NRSS)-XXIX being developed by Sterlite Power. Right-of-way issues have cropped up in Jammu, Badgam and Baramulla. Besides, overall unrest in Jammu & Kashmir has hampered activity in general. Help has been sought from District Collectors of these districts to expedite the process.
There is another case where right of way has been hampered, not by private land, but due to the presence of coal mines. The project in question is the Eastern Region System Strengthening Scheme (ERSS)-XIX, developed by Adani Group. The transmission project aims to provide evacuation infrastructure to NTPC’s upcoming 1,980-mw North Karanpura thermal power project in Jharkhand. For a 63-ckm stretch that passes over the North Karanpura coalfield, there was a rather unexpected impediment. Central Coalfields Ltd and Central Mine Planning & Design Institute disallowed construction on the route suggested by the bid process coordinator. The revised alignment, as suggested by CCL and CMPDI, would mean tremendous escalation in both cost and completion time. During a meeting held in May 2017, both CCL and CMPDI agreed to reevaluate the original route, if the developer gave an undertaking that the proposed transmission line would be dismantled after 35 years, which is the concession period. While the developer has submitted an undertaking to this effect, the final resolution of the matter is still awaited.
Right of way is also becoming a concern arising from political reasons as seen in the case of a transmission scheme that aims to transmit electricity to India from upcoming hydropower projects in Bhutan. One segment of this transmission scheme is the 232-ckm 400kV Alipurduar-Siliguri line, which is facing RoW concerns. At several locations along the alignment, landowners are demanding very high compensation. It is alleged that the demand for unreasonable compensation is a politically motivated move. The developer, a subsidiary of Kalpataru Power Transmission, is understood to be taking up rigorous negotiations with landowners.
As of October 2017, a total of 37 interstate transmission projects were awarded under the tariff-based competitive bidding route. Out of these 13 were completed while 20 were under construction or partially complete. The remaining four are in distress. One project, officially known as “Transmission system associated with IPPs of Vemagiri Area (Package A)” has been officially terminated by Central Electricity Regulatory Commission, as it found the project unnecessary. The project was won Power Grid Corporation of India, and was to be implemented through its 100 per cent subsidiary Powergrid Vemagiri Transmission Ltd.
In the case of one project, the developer (transmission service provider) has requested for cancellation of the project, apparently due to financial constraints. The developer in this case is DGEN Transmission Company Ltd, which is a 100 per cent subsidiary of Spanish entity Instalciones Abensa SA.
Reliance Power Transmission Company Ltd, belonging to the Anil Ambani group, has invoked the “force majeure” clause and is seeking tariff increase to the tune of 90 per cent in two projects. Both of these were awarded way back in 2010, and there has been no physical work on both the projects. While one scheme relates to transmission evacuation related to the North Karanpura and other generation projects in north India, the other is associated with the Talcher project in Odisha.
Eleventh for PGCIL: In November 2017, Power Grid Corporation of India was declared successful bidder for the Eastern Region System Strengthening Scheme (ERSS)-XXI in Bihar, making it the eleventh interstate TBCB project for the PGCIL. [This project has not been included in the present study.] PGCIL won its first TBCB project in 2011 and so far has won 11 out of the 25 projects that it has bid for, representing a success rate of 44 per cent.
The interstate TBCB power transmission market is dominated by Power Grid Corporation of India and Sterlite Power that together have over half of the number of projects awarded till October 2017 (see table). Essel Infra, Adani Power and Kalpataru Power Transmission represent the emerging players in the business. Apart from these, there are a few other companies but they are not active currently. Reliance Power Transmission has won two projects but both of them are under litigation.
Instalaciones Inabensa, a Spanish infrastructure company, is the only foreign entity that is present in the interstate TBCB power transmission market. However, the company has sought closure of its only project, due to financial concerns. Concerns were expressed in Parliament recently about the potential involvement of Chinese companies in the power transmission market, especially as developers. Though Chinese companies have submitted bids, none have won a project so far.
Larsen & Toubro has commissioned its sole project (Kudgi transmission scheme) and has not been bidding actively in recent times. Much is the same with Kolkata-based Techno Electric Engineering. It is interesting to note that in January 2011, an equal consortium of BS Ltd (then known as BS Transcomm Ltd), Patel Engineering and Simplex Infrastructures won the Raichur-Sholapur transmission project. The project was significant because it was one of the transmission lines for connecting the southern grid to rest of India, resulting in a truly synchronous national grid. The Raichur-Sholapur project was important also because it was for the first time that a consortium approach was followed whilst bidding for power transmission projects. Interestingly, this has remained the only case of its kind till date, at least in the context of interstate power transmission lines awarded under the TBCB route.