Need for Green Energy Corridors Grows as Over 64 GW of Renewables are Connected to the Grid

India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world with increasing power demand in the coming years. Historically, the country has also been a power deficit with millions of people without access to the grid. While generation is catching up with especially with the growth in solar and wind, the adequate transmission has always been a challenge leading to grid congestion and curtailment according to Mercom Solar Market Updates.

To meet the increasing amount of power generation and power demand in India, the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) has published in its National Electricity Plan (NEP) an important blueprint to develop the transmission systems in the country.

These transmission systems are planned to be implemented to evacuate power from generating stations. The plan also focuses on strengthening of an existing transmission network for meeting projected growth in load or demand and optimum utilization of distributed generation resources in different regions.

Based on the 19th Electrical Power survey by the CEA, the total installed power capacity by the end of 2021-22 is projected to be around 480.4 GW to meet the annual peak load demand of 225.7 GW which includes about 175 GW of renewable generation capacity (which includes about 60 GW of wind, 100 GW of Solar, 9 GW of Biomass and 6 GW of small hydro capacity).

Also, cross border power exchanges with neighboring countries considered for the plan period (2017-22) include about 4,500 MW import from Bhutan. The plan also covers 1,500 MW and 950 MW of power exports to Bangladesh and Nepal respectively.  In December 2018, the Ministry of Power (MoP) issued new guidelines for the import and export of electricity and power trading with neighboring countries, replacing its previous guidelines issued in 2016.

CEA expects the Northern, Southern and North Eastern regions to remain power deficit while Western and Eastern regions are expected to be power surplus to be able to supply electricity during peak hours.

Based on the analysis, about 110,000 circuit kilometers (ckm) of transmission lines and about 383,000 MVA of transformation capacity in the substations at 220kV and above voltage levels are required to be added.

To facilitate inter-regional power transfer capabilities from power surplus regions to deficit regions, CEA estimates regional power transmission capacity by 2021-22 at 118,050 MW. However actual power transfer capabilities will vary depending on load flow pattern, voltage stability, angular stability, loop flows, and line loading.

The inter-regional transmission line corridor expansion requirement would be as follows –

The CEA estimates that an expenditure of ₹2.69 trillion ($39 billion) would be required for the implementation of the transmission system which would include transmission lines, substations, and reactive compensation, during the plan period (2017-22). This expenditure would also include about ₹300 billion ($4.28 billion) required for the implementation of transmission systems below 220kV voltage level.

According to the CEA, during 12th plan (2012-2017) period, there was an addition of 110,370 ckms of transmission lines and 321,464 MVA of transformation capacity (220kV and above).

To provide broad information on transmission capacity requirement, a ‘Perspective Transmission Plan for the period 2022-27’ has also been prepared based on peak load demand projections. The CEA estimates that the total generation capacity of India would be at 619 GW at the end of that period.

Lack of transmission capacity has been a growing concern for solar, and wind companies and Mercom had earlier reported on this issue. With a plethora of mega solar tenders announced in the solar sector including interstate transmission system (ISTS) connected projects; evacuation infrastructure availability has been the biggest challenge.

“Lack of power evacuation and transmission infrastructure has been the most significant challenge in addressing India’s power shortage so far. However, based on the National Electricity Plan, $40 billion in expected investments by 2022, also presents a huge opportunity. Renewables will benefit the most with the expansion and upgrade of transmission systems in the Country,” said Raj Prabhu, CEO of Mercom Capital Group.

Shaurya Bajaj is a staff reporter for Mercomindia.com.