Introducing GNA: CERC notifies draft regulations for a new transmission planning approach

CERC notifies draft regulations for a new transmission planning approach

A number of sector developments including the increasing focus on renewable energy, the slowdown in the signing of long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs) and the preference of discoms to purchase power in the short-term market necessitated a review of the existing transmission planning framework based on long-term access (LTA). After almost three years of review and consultation on formulating a new planning approach based on general network access (GNA), the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC), on November 14, 2017, notified the draft regulations on Grant of Connectivity and General Network Access to Inter-state Transmission System and Other Related Matters. GNA is basically the ability to draw or supply power in megawatts from a given point of connection (PoC) or zone to any point in the interstate transmission system (ISTS) as assessed by the central transmission utility (CTU) through system studies.

The draft regulations were available for stakeholder consultation for a month. These will be applicable to all cases of grant of connectivity and GNA to ISTS. Once notified, they will replace the existing Grant of Connectivity, Long-term Access and Medium-term Open Access in ISTS Regulations, 2009.

Power Line presents the key features of the draft regulations…

Key features

  • To be eligible to apply for connectivity and GNA to the ISTS, it is mandatory for projects to be registered with the central repository of generators, which will be maintained by the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) for conventional energy sources and by a yet-to-be notified nodal agency for renewable energy sources.
  • Projects that are already connected to the state grid would be allowed to seek connectivity and GNA to the ISTS, subject to the payment of transmission charges corresponding additional connectivity and GNA, as well as applicable state charges. New grid entities that are not connected to the grid cannot seek GNA to the ISTS without applying for connectivity to the ISTS or the intra-state transmission system. They could, however, apply for connectivity and GNA simultaneously. The existing ISTS long-term customers are deemed to be GNA customers.
  • The nodal agency for connectivity and GNA to the ISTS is the CTU, Power Grid Corporation of India (Powergrid). All applications have to be made to Powergrid along with a non-refundable fee (see table) for the quantum applied.
  • The state transmission utilities (STUs) acting on behalf of the distribution licensees and other intra-state entities that are seeking GNA to the ISTS would need to apply for GNA every year for a five-year period. The application fee will not be levied on the STUs.
  • Connectivity applications by renewable energy generators (including individual generating stations, solar power park developers, wind power park developers, or wind-solar power park developers) will be submitted in two stages. Applicants may apply for Stage II connectivity along with Stage I provided the project has achieved financial closure and has been awarded through competitive bidding for 50 MW and above or has entered into a long-term PPA for at least 50 MW. In the case of a merchant power plant, besides financial closure, the applicant should have completed at least 50 per cent tower erection at the dedicated transmission lines to connect to the ISTS and should have installed switchgear and interconnecting transformer (ICT) at its pooling station. The application fee is to be paid for Stage I only.
  • The application processing timeline for connectivity would be 60 days (from Stage II application for renewable projects in case it is made separately). GNA applications would take about 120 days to be processed if transmission does not need to be augmented, and 180 days if augmentation is required.
  • Applicants must apply online for connectivity to the CTU for quantum equal to the installed capacity of the generating station less auxiliary consumption in specified formats. This application has to be submitted along with other documents in support of having initiated project preparatory works including site identification, land acquisition, environmental clearance, forest clearance and fuel arrangements.
  • Within a week of receiving the application, the CTU will have to scrutinise it  and intimate the deficiencies if any. The applicant will get a week to rectify the same, failing which the application will be closed and 20 per cent of the fee will be forfeited and the balance refunded.
  • Any material change in the project location or the quantum of power to be interchanged after grant of connectivity has to be intimated to the CTU. After assessment, the CTU will inform the applicant within a month to file a fresh application if any modification in the planned ISTS will be required otherwise it will issue the revised grant incorporating the change in connectivity. A similar procedure will be followed in case of modification in the GNA application.
  • While granting connectivity, the CTU will specify the name of the substation, pooling station, or switchyard where connectivity is to be granted. For grant by looping in and looping out of an existing or proposed line, the CTU will specify the point of connection and the name of the line where connectivity is to be granted. For renewable stations, the CTU will indicate one firm location (while granting Stage II connectivity) and one nearby alternative location. The applicant has to enter into a bay implementation agreement within 30 days of grant of Stage II connectivity.
  • All applicants and ISTS licensees are required to comply with the provision of the CEA regulations, 2007 on technical standards for grid connectivity.
  • The draft regulations allow more than one power generator to share a dedicated transmission line that connects their generating stations to the ISTS pooling station, after all aspects of sharing are formalised among them including sharing of transmission charges and line losses. The dedicated line will be under the operational control of the CTU after completion and it will charge a fee for the same as per the CERC tariff regulations.
  • The connection agreement will be signed amongst the applicant, the CTU and the ISTS licensee whose substation or line has been identified by the nodal agency for connectivity. Physical connectivity will be provided only after grant of the GNA application. Firm power can be interchanged only after the operationalisation of GNA.
  • The withdrawal of start-up power would not be allowed after 15 months from the expected date of first synchronisation and six months after the date of first synchronisation. The injection of power from renewables would not be allowed to exceed six months from the date of the first synchronisation.
  • A captive generating project (CGP) can apply for connectivity to the ISTS for selling its surplus capacity on a long-, medium-, or short-term basis or to evacuate power to a captive user through it. The CGP would apply for the connectivity or GNA for a quantum of the maximum exportable capacity (the maximum electricity in megawatts that can be generated and supplied) that is proposed to be connected to the ISTS. The CGP may seek drawal GNA to draw power through the ISTS. In such cases, the charges imposed by the respective state regulators will be applicable.
  • Metering would be done at the interface connection point between the generator and the licensee’s transmission system. Interface meters would be installed by the CTU for the use of regional entities, which would pay for the cost. Meanwhile, STUs would install the interface meters for use by the state entities, which will bear the cost for it.
  • The GNA application has to be made online within 2.5 years from the date of initiation of grant of connectivity for conventional generating stations and that of Stage I connectivity for renewable generators. The application is to be accompanied by an access bank guarantee of Rs 2 million per MW (Rs 1 million for renewable generators) for the quantum of GNA sought and other documents including a copy of the PPA. STUs are not required to furnish an access bank guarantee, but those availing of GNA through an STU have to furnish the same.
  • GNA applications will be processed quarterly. Similar procedures will be followed for the rectification of defective applications as for connectivity applications. In this case, the application fee will be forfeited and the access bank guarantee returned within 15 days.
  • New generation projects must apply for GNA five years prior to the expected date of commissioning of the first unit, while renewable energy generators, must apply two years before considering their low gestation period.
  • On receipt of the GNA application, the CTU should carry out system studies in the ISTS to examine the transmission system adequacy corresponding to the time frame of commencement of LTA. It should asses the total transfer capability, the available transfer capability and the transmission reliability margin of the interregional links or corridors.
  • The construction or augmentation of any system may be taken up by the CTU or transmission licensee in phases corresponding to the capacity that is to be commissioned in a given time frame.
  • The date of operationalisation of GNA would be from the availability of the identified transmission system or the date indicated in the letter of grant of GNA, whichever is later. Transmission charges would be payable from this date, unless it is extended with CERC approval.
  • Post GNA operationalisation, one-fifth of the access bank guarantee would be returned to the applicant every year for a four-year period and the remaining amount would be kept until the twelfth year as security towards relinquishment charges.
  • Access BG may be encashed by the nodal agency (CTU) if:
  • Applicant withdraws the application after nine months of GNA grant.
  • Applicant fails to submit an extension letter of the earlier furnished bank guarantee at least 30 days prior to its expiry.
  • GNA is relinquished.
  • One-tenth of the bank guarantee may be forfeited if the applicant fails to sign a GNA agreement within the stipulated time (30 days of GNA grant or as agreed by the CTU in case of any extensions).
  • The generator has to pay one-year transmission charges at the prevailing PoC rate in case it relinquishes GNA after granting it. The access bank guarantee will also be encashed that is the entire amount if GNA is yet to be operationalised and the balance amount in case of relinquishment within five years of GNA operationalisation.
  • When transmission constraints necessitate the curtailment of the power flow on a transmission corridor in real time after the day-ahead schedule has been finalised, transactions that have already been scheduled may be curtailed by the regional load despatch centre. The deviation rate for the intra-state entity will be 105 per cent (for over withdrawals/undergeneration) and 95 per cent (for underwithdrawals/overgeneration).
  • Once finalised, the new regulations will provide guidance for the optimal utilisation of the available transmission network at the interstate level. The ISTS is essential for the country’s renewable energy sector given its envisaged growth in the coming years. The anomaly in the existing transmission planning methodology will be corrected by these regulations. Overall, the introduction of the concept of GNA will help in ensuring adequacy and continuity in transmission planning and development.