The accelerated development of power transmission infrastructure is crucial to realise India’s decarbonisation goals as it will help in evacuating a large quantum of renewables coming up across the country. However, the development of transmission projects is often hampered by lengthy processes of obtaining statutory approvals, right-of-way (RoW) issues and delays in forest/environmental clearances. As a result, several transmission projects miss their completion schedules while the associated generation projects are commissioned but stranded due to the lack of power evacuation infrastructure. The issue is more prominent in renewable energy projects, which take just a couple of months (15-18 months) from concept to commissioning while transmission projects can take up to three years, thereby dampening investor interest. It is, therefore, essential to fast-track ongoing and upcoming transmission projects if the country has to meet its target of 500 GW of non-fossil fuel capacity by 2030. The Prime Minister’s Gati Shakti National Master Plan (NMP), launched in October 2021, aims to address these issues and many more across infrastructure projects including power transmission. The plan focuses on new methods of planning and financing, greater use of technology, and speedier implementation of infrastructure projects.
A look at the key features of the initiative and its progress in power transmission…
The PM Gati Shakti NMP was launched with the objective of harmonising different ministries/utilities and infrastructure planning across all sectors such as highways, railways, aviation, gas, power transmission and renewable energy under a single unified vision.
The PM Gati Shakti NMP has a digital platform that provides a one-click comprehensive view of power transmission projects (apart from other sectors) to streamline project development in a bid to reduce time and cost overruns. The portal aims to assist transmission service providers (TSPs) across all stages of project development – planning, tendering, implementation and approval.
At the planning stage, a user can identify the approximate line length of the planned transmission line as well as determine the optimal location of substations using various tools in the portal. At the tendering or bidding stage, the survey agency can utilise the portal for identifying the best techno-economical route for a transmission line. During the implementation stage, the transmission line route and the location of the substation can be finalised on the basis of actual conditions. The portal provides an accurate location of railway crossings, highways and other under-construction infrastructure projects. It also helps identify the RoW requirements so that developers can select the most optimal route for laying transmission lines and siting towers.
Progress so far
Several transmission projects have been commissioned and are under construction in the country for the evacuation of renewables under various national programmes such as Green Energy Corridors and the Renewable Energy Zones scheme. Of these, the Ministry of Power has undertaken nine high impact projects comprising 10 transmission lines across six renewable-rich states of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh. The details of these projects have already been mapped in the NMP portal by creating a layer of interstate transmission system (ISTS) lines incorporating key data points such as the route, tower location, substation location and developer name. Overall, about 6,500 ckt. km of ISTS lines are currently live on the portal and the addition of about 20,500 ckt. km of ISTS lines is under way. Further, about 90 per cent of under-construction ISTS lines have been integrated to the portal while 10 per cent of ISTS lines will be added after the finalisation of the routes survey by the respective TSPs.
Industry experts believe that the NMP portal can be a game changer for transmission projects. Currently, a significant amount of time is often spent on route planning and obtaining statutory approvals. The process of digitally mapping and optimising transmission line routes can provide considerable cost and time savings to TSPs, thereby accelerating line length addition in line with the renewable capacity addition targets. Another key positive of the NMP portal is the provision of a single-window clearance system, which streamlines the approval processes for existing players and helps attract more investors to the segment.
Net, net, the initiative is expected to expedite the commissioning of the transmission infrastructure in the country, yielding benefits for both developers and consumers.