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A RE-powered $5T economy needs better transmission capacities

July 25, 2023 12:21 pm

A RE-powered $5T economy needs better transmission capacities

The discussion highlights India’s remarkable progress in enhancing its energy distribution infrastructure by installing over 17,000 km of high-capacity transmission lines. This concerted effort aims to strengthen the nation’s energy distribution capabilities, aligning with its ambitious goal of reaching a $5 trillion economy and achieving renewable energy targets.

In 2022, the Government of India unveiled a comprehensive plan to establish a dedicated transmission system designed to evacuate approximately 500 GW (Gigawatts) of non-fossil energy by 2030. This forward-looking initiative underscores the country’s commitment to sustainable and renewable energy sources.

High-capacity transmission lines were installed in India.

As of May 2020, the total length of transmission lines in the nation was measured at 425,770 cKm. However, there has been a remarkable increase in this value recently, growing at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of around 6.5 percent. Shalin Sheth, Founder and Managing Director of Advait Infratech, highlights that over the past decade, the country has made significant progress in enhancing its energy distribution infrastructure by installing more than 17,000 cKm of high-capacity transmission lines. This concerted effort aims to strengthen and bolster the nation’s energy distribution capabilities.

Neeraj Nanda, President of KEC International (T&D, Solar, Smart Infra), commends the Power Ministry’s proactive plans to bolster the transmission line and substation infrastructure, which is crucial for strengthening the National Grid. KEC International, with a diverse presence across India, collaborates closely with entities like PGCIL, various state electricity boards, and private players in the power infrastructure domain.

With the central government consistently awarding a substantial number of new projects through the TBCB (Tariff-Based Competitive Bidding) route, there has been a notable increase in participation from private players in the industry. Additionally, several states are adopting this route for their upcoming projects, demonstrating their commitment to upgrading and expanding intra-state transmission networks. This collective effort signifies a positive step in enhancing the country’s overall power transmission and distribution ecosystem.

Upgrading transmission line capacity 

India’s ambitious goal of reaching a $5 trillion economy by 2025 and becoming the world’s 3rd largest economy has spurred significant transformations in the energy sector, particularly in achieving its renewable energy targets.

Shalin explains that the Government of India is focused on initiating a green revolution nationwide, aiming to install approximately 550 GW of renewable energy sources by 2030. This plan includes 280 GW solar power and 140 GW of wind power installations. Addressing climate change challenges is now paramount, necessitating improvements in manufacturing and deploying renewable energy sources.

Neeraj Nanda highlights that India’s goal of generating 500 GW from renewable sources by 2030 will spur Green Energy Corridor (GEC) projects. Establishing solar power parks and energy zones in renewable-rich states will boost demand for transmission networks. Adopting underground power cables will enhance reliability. This creates opportunities for Transmission and Distribution EPC players like KEC International, which is well-equipped to excel in timely delivery, quality, and safety standards, contributing to India’s transmission infrastructure growth.

Inter-state power transfers, cross-border electricity trade, and robust infrastructure corridors

The Indian Power Ministry has announced a $30 Billion plan to construct over 50,000 kilometres of electricity transmission lines nationwide. This expansion aims to accommodate the planned renewable energy capacity of 500 GW by 2030. The plan is dedicated to increasing the inter-regional transmission capacity from 112 GW to 150 GW by 2030.

Shalin emphasises that rapid urbanisation, limited space availability, and the need for swift transmission infrastructure scaling are driving innovative developments in the nation. To achieve faster installation and cost benefits, developers are now favouring narrow-base lattice towers and monopoles over conventional lattice-type transmission towers.

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Neeraj points out that the power sector’s focus has traditionally been on improving power quality. Consequently, technology-driven solutions like Static Synchronous Compensators (STATCOM) for substations have gained popularity. Advanced technologies such as HVDC and HVDC Lite facilitate bulk power transmission from remote locations, complemented by the development of High-Capacity Power Transmission Corridors. Innovative conductor technologies like HTLS Conductors, Covered Conductors, monopoles and narrow base towers play crucial roles in resolving Right of Way (RoW) issues.

Rajesh Gupta, Director of NETCL, explains that the right of way in a transmission line refers to the strip of land necessary for the utility to construct, maintain, and protect its transmission line. This designated corridor, the transmission corridor, ensures adequate safety clearances and adherence to electromagnetic field exposure limits. By keeping the power lines free from tall trees, buildings, and other potential obstructions, the right of way enables smooth line operation and ensures public and environmental safety.

A five-year outlook

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of a $5 trillion economy will necessitate an estimated investment of around INR 5 Lakh crore in the electricity transmission sector in the coming years. Reports indicate that India’s electricity consumption is expected to reach approximately 1.8 trillion units by 2025 as the nation’s growth trajectory gains momentum.

Shalin underscores the need for substantial investments in the electricity transmission sector, particularly at the state level, given that over 90 percent of capacity addition will be in the renewable energy sector. This poses the challenge of designing transmission grids capable of handling intermittent power while considering limited land availability and rapid urbanisation.

Neeraj Nanda acknowledges the progress made in digitising generation and transmission infrastructure through technologies like SCADA and GIS but emphasises the importance of similar advancements on the distribution side. The Ministry of Power has tasked CEAs and PSUs with implementing new technologies to minimise AT&C losses. Moreover, wireless transmission emerges as an exciting concept with inherent challenges that require further technological development. IoT-driven initiatives drive significant improvements, enabling remote deployment, monitoring, and usage through cutting-edge sensors and cloud computing. KEC’s commitment to adopting new technology and strategic partnerships maintains its leadership in the sector.

Harshal Malewar, Deputy Manager at NETCL (JV of POWERGRID and OTPC), reveals India’s efforts to develop green energy corridors, facilitating the evacuation of renewable energy from generation points to load centres through Regulatory Tariff Mechanism (RTM) and Tariff Based Competitive Bidding (TBCB) routes. However, land acquisition and securing right of way (ROW) pose significant hurdles to timely transmission infrastructure construction due to rapid urbanisation and litigation issues.

The Power Ministry’s proactive plans to bolster transmission line and substation infrastructure are crucial in strengthening the National Grid. The country’s focus on green energy corridors, underground power cables, and innovative technologies reflects a commitment to sustainability and reliability. However, challenges such as rapid urbanisation and right-of-way (ROW) issues in transmission infrastructure construction must be addressed. The discussion also emphasises the importance of digitisation in the power sector and strategic partnerships to foster advancements in the industry. Overall, India’s efforts demonstrate a positive step towards enhancing power transmission and distribution capabilities. 

Spokesperson and Quotes –

17,000+ km of high-capacity transmission lines strengthen energy distribution infrastructure.” – Shalin Sheth, Founder & Managing Director, Advait Infratech.

Green Energy Corridor projects drive demand for transmission networks, ensuring reliability with underground power cables.” – Neeraj Nanda, President, KEC International (T&D, Solar, Smart Infra)

The right of way in transmission lines ensures public safety and smooth operation.” – Rajesh Gupta, Director, NETCL

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