MoU for $500 mn Lanka-India power link to be signed soon

NEW DELHI, December 29: India and Sri Lanka are likely to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) soon for developing the $500-million high-capacity power transmission link between the two countries.

Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd (PGCIL), the country’s largest electricity transmission company and the implementing agency from the Indian side, and the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB), the island’s largest electricity company, will sign the MoU.

The India-Sri Lanka power link is only the second such transnational undersea power transmission line in the world. The first one laid so far is between Britain and France for transmission of 2,000Mw of electricity.

If the MoU is signed shortly, the work on the project may begin by February-March, 2010. "It will take us two-and-a-half to three years to complete this project," says SK Chaturvedi, PGCIL’s Chairman and Managing Director. This means the project is likely to be completed by 2013.

The 285-kilometre or 178-mile power link, including submarine cables over a stretch of 50 km or 31.25 miles will enable the two countries to trade their surplus power, thereby offering a cheaper option to bridge their power generation deficit and also manage their peak demand.

The transmission link will pave the way for future trading of electricity between the two countries.

The link will also help Sri Lanka reduce its use of expensive fuels and import cheaper power from India’s surplus. For India, the link will help open up a new market for its projected surplus of power.

India currently faces an over 12 per cent power deficit, with a peak demand of 109,000 Mw annually. The government hopes it can add at least 62,000 Mw of generation capacity in the current Five-Year Plan period, ending March 2012, with additional capacities being set up by private investors through captive and merchant power plants. This, along with the power from ultra mega power projects (UMPPs) has fuelled hopes for tradable surplus.

The sub-sea line will initially have a capacity of 500 Mw. Later, the power flow can be ramped up to 1,000 Mw by 2016, when the power generation capacities in the two countries improve, with surplus availability especially in India’s southern grid.

The proposed undersea transmission link can also be useful for transfer of electricity from the 500-Mw imported coal-based power project being planned to be set up by National Thermal Power Corporation Ltd (NTPCL), India’s largest power generator, at Trincomalee in the East. The island nation currently has a capacity of 2,500 Mw.

PGCIL carried out a feasibility study of the project last year and found that the installing of the transmission lines is feasible. It has already received an approval from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). Now a detailed project report will be prepared. The Sri Lankan government gave its approval to the transnational power link in July last year.

PGCIL and the Ceylon Electricity Board will lay down cables under the Gulf of Mannar between Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu and Talaimannar in Sri Lanka.

On the Indian side, the cable will be connected to the southern grid in Madurai in Tamil Nadu through an overhead transmission line. On the Sri Lankan side, the underwater cable will be linked to the country’s power network at Anuradhapura through an overhead line.

Incidentally, PGCIL is executing projects in Nepal and Bhutan as well to bring electricity to India. It is also looking at developing two transmission lines in Myanmar.

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