Transmission planning is needed to ensure the timely availability of evacuation infrastructure for generation projects and maintain a congestion-free network. This has become even more important with the large-scale addition of renewable capacity, given that renewable energy projects have a shorter gestation period than the transmission projects. To improve transmission planning in the country, the Ministry of Power (MoP), in November 2019, reconstituted the National Committee on Transmission (NCT) and five regional power committees. The ministry also issued the revised terms of reference (ToR) for the committees. These committees will undertake transmission planning, taking into account the upcoming generation projects and the expected load demand to ensure that adequate transmission capacity is available. The committees will also uphold the directive of the tariff policy for developing the transmission system ahead of generation projects to ensure smooth grid operation.
National Committee on Transmission
In November 2019, the MoP reconstituted the NCT and issued an amendment to its TOR. The NCT will be headed by the chairperson of the Central Electricity Authority (CEA). Following this, the empowered committee constituted in April 2018 stands dissolved. As per the revised TOR, the NCT will examine the functioning of the national grid on a quarterly basis. It will consider reviews and recommendations of the five regional power committees for transmission planning (RPCTPs) on system expansion and strengthening. The RPCTPs will present their recommendations before the committee at the end of every quarter, that is, July 15, October 15, January 15 and April 15. The MoP has also stated that since the committee will be responsible for the national transmission system, comprising transmission networks across states and regions, it will not require prior approval of the RPCTPs. The ministry noted that the views of RPCTPs will be relevant only for transmission issues within their region. Since RPCTPs lack national perspective, their views on transmission across regions will be immaterial. That said, for interregional transmission lines, the NCT will consult the RPCTPs of the originating and terminating locations of the lines.
As per the Electricity Act, 2003, the central transmission utility (CTU) will carry out a periodic assessment of the transmission requirement of the interstate transmission system (ISTS). The CTU will make a comprehensive presentation before the NCT every quarter to ensure efficient, coordinated and economical development of the ISTS. Besides, the CTU may take inputs from the markets to identify constraints and congestion in the transmission network. Based on the recommendations of the CTU and RPCTPs, the NCT will assess the growth trend in demand and generation across various regions. The NCT will identify constraints, if any, at the interstate and interregional levels and propose the construction of transmission lines, grid substations and other related infrastructure to meet the near-to-medium term requirements of the transmission system. Besides this, it will formulate perspective plans with a time horizon of 10-15 years. Overall, the NCT will make recommendations on transmission network expansion and strengthening as per the directives under the tariff policy.
Reconstitution of regional power committees
The MoP has also reconstituted five regional standing committees on transmission – Eastern Regional Standing Committee on Transmission, Western Regional Standing Committee on Transmission, Northern Regional Standing Committee on Transmission, Southern Regional Standing Committee on Transmission and North Eastern Regional Standing Committee on Transmission. Broadly, these committees will include member, planning system, CEA; chief operating officer, Powergrid; director (system operation), Power System Operation Corporation Limited; heads of state transmission utilities; member secretary of the regional power committee; heads (including chairman and managing/chairman/managing director) of power sector PSUs such as NTPC Limited, NHPC Limited, Solar Energy Corporation of India and Damodar Valley Corporation, and chief engineer, power system, CEA.
As per the ToR of the RPCTPs, the committees will carry out a quarterly review of the transmission system and assess the growth in generation capacity and power demand in the region. Subsequently, they will draw up proposals for the strengthening of the interregional transmission system. They will also introduce transmission schemes to meet the power requirement in the near, medium and long term. Besides, the power ministry has recommended the committee to factor in the perspective plan for the next 15-20 years as well as the requisite allowance/margin during the planning process. Apart from this, the committees will be required to examine the applications for connectivity, and ensure that these are speedily approved upon the payment of requisite fees and charges. Further, the committees will review the upstream and downstream network associated with the transmission schemes. They are also responsible for evaluating and examining intra-state transmission proposals as well as for reviewing and facilitating the construction of interregional grid strengthening schemes.
Overall, the RPCTPs will ensure that the transmission capacity is capable of wheeling electricity to different parts of the region as well as outside the region, as per market demand. They will carry out quarterly reviews and make recommendations for system strengthening and expansion in line with the guidelines under the tariff policy. The RPCTPs will forward their proposals to the NCT every quarter.
To conclude, the reconstitution of the NCT and the regional power committees is a step in the right direction, which will ensure improved transmission network planning. Furthermore, it will help in achieving the government’s 24×7 power for all target and promoting renewable energy generation in the country. Meanwhile, a concern often raised by private sector developers in the transmission segment is the absence of a level-playing field in tariff-based competitive bidding projects. In this regard, they have been asking for the reconstitution of the bid evaluation committee for these projects.