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PPP still eluding intrastate power transmission

Venugopal Pillai ,  Wednesday, July 01, 2015, 13:47 Hrs  [IST]

Despite being around for nearly a decade, the PPP culture has not yet permeated in the field of intrastate power transmission. Only five states have made demonstrable progress in this direction, notes Venugopal Pillai.

Power sector participation is only slowly picking up in the field of power transmission. It has been nearly a decade since India began experimenting with private participation in various kinds of transmission lines—interregional, intrastate and even cross-border. This special study takes a look at the overall progress made by the public private partnership (PPP) culture in intrastate transmission lines alone. So far, only a handful of states are seen experimenting with the PPP modality – Maharashtra, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. One can also include Gujarat and Tamil Nadu based on their intent to move in the PPP direction. The following is a state-wise account.

Rajasthan: This northern state has recorded sufficient progress in using the PPP model in setting up its power transmission infrastructure. The state utility Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Prasaran Nigam Ltd initiated the process of soliciting private enterprise under the BOOM model in 2009-10. As of mid-May 2015, according to an interaction of Electrical Monitor with senior officials of the NPP&R (new power projects and reforms) wing, four projects have been awarded to private developers and three others are in process.

Two of the four projects awarded have in fact started commercial operations. These projects are the 400kV Bikaner-Deedwana-Ajmer line running 255 km and the 150-km 400kV Hinduan-Alwar line. These projects were awarded to the GMR Group under the BOOM model in September 2010. The respective special purpose vehicles for the two projects are Maru Transmission Service Ltd and Aravali Transmission Service Ltd. GMR Group has invested around Rs.200 crore in these projects, and these projects mark the entry of the Hyderabad-headquartered group in the power transmission development space.

Mumbai-based Emco Group has been awarded two projects, both under the BOOM model. These projects include the 220kV Sikar-Nawalgarh-Jhunjhunu scheme to be developed by the special purpose vehicle Shekhawati Transmission Service Ltd. This project was awarded in February 2013. More recently, another project—the 400kV Jodhpur-Udaipur line—was also awarded to Emco, according to RVPNL officials. This project is being developed by a special purpose vehicle Lake City Transmission Ltd. For Emco that has constructed power transmission infrastructure as an EPC contractor, these two projects mark the debut of the company as a transmission service provider.

An interesting phenomenon is that Rajasthan is moving away from the BOOM method and is adopting the DBFOT mechanism, so that it can avail viability gap funding (VGF). Officials explained that one project involving setting up of a 90-km 400kV double-circuit line from Jhunjhunu to Jaipur (North) along with associated substations that was to come up on BOOM basis—under the SPV Pink City Transmission Ltd—will now be developed under the DBFOT mechanism. The selection of bidders is currently underway and RfQs are being accepted up to June 29, 2015.

There are two other projects on DBFOT basis that Rajasthan is pursuing. The 400kV Bikaner-Sikar line running 169 km is on the verge of allotment. There are three bidders in the race that include Tata Projects and Essel Infraprojects, RVPNL officials said. The other project is the 142-km 400kV Suratgarh-Bikaner line for which RfQs are being sought.

Madhya Pradesh: Madhya Pradesh recently witnessed its first power transmission project commissioned in PPP mode. Kalpataru Power Transmission, on April 9, 2015 announced that it began commercial operations on the transmission line meant to evacuate power from the 2x250-mw Satpura extension power project of the state power utility Madhya Pradesh Power Generation Company Ltd (MPGENCO). The 400kV DCDS line traversing 240 km to connect Sarni and Astha was commissioned in 16 months, two months ahead of schedule.

Speaking to Electrical Monitor from Jabalpur, officials from the Planning & Design division of Madhya Pradesh Power Transmission Company Ltd said that this was the first instance of PPP in the power transmission sector of Madhya Pradesh. The project was awarded using the viability gap funding (VGF) mechanism. Differing from the tariff-based mechanism, the bidders in this case were asked to quote a grant that they would expect from the nodal agency to build, own and operate the project for a concession period of 25 years.

Kalpataru Power Transmission was awarded the Satpura transmission line project in April 2013 when it quoted a grant of Rs.60.75 crore. Out of this, Rs.56.54 crore has been funded as equity support during construction phase, while the balance Rs.4.21 crore will be O&M support. The project is being developed by a special purpose vehicle Kalpataru Satpura Transco Pvt Ltd. During the concession period, the SPV expects to generate revenues of Rs.38 crore per year.

Madhya Pradesh is planning to offer more intrastate power transmission projects on PPP basis but officials did not wish to share more details.

Uttar Pradesh: This northern state has had a mixed experience with private sector participation in power transmission. Two large projects, aggregating nearly Rs.2,000 crore, have been awarded to private sector players while one recent project, which was supposed to come on PPP basis, has been cancelled. There are no projects envisaged to come up on PPP basis, in the foreseeable future.

Officials of Uttar Pradesh Power Transmission Corporation Ltd (UPPTCL), speaking to Electrical Monitor, said that a transmission scheme for power evacuation from the Lalitpur power generation project was to come up on PPP basis. At least three bidders—Isolux Corsan, Sterlite Grid and Reliance Power Transmission—were in the fray at the initial stages. However, no final bids were received resulting in Uttar Pradesh deciding to scrap the PPP modality. As the project involved technical complexity like 765kV lines, it was decided in March 2014 to have Power Grid Corporation of India execute the project. This project involves, among other things, a 765kV single-circuit line from Lalitpur Agra. PGCIL has since placed orders valued at Rs.300 crore on contractors like Tata Projects and L&T. Construction of around 200 foundations has since been completed, UPPTCL officials explained.

The two projects awarded under the PPP mode have respectively gone to Isolux Corsan, a Spain-based infrastructure company; and a consortium of Cobra Instalaciones (also of Spain) and Hyderabad-based Megha Engineering & Infrastructures Ltd. Awarded in 2011, both the projects involve setting up of 765kV lines, which will be the first instance of such extra-high voltage in UP’s state grid.

The project awarded to Isolux Corsan in July 2011 involves developing the 765kV single-circuit Mainpuri-Bara Line, an air insulated switchgear (AIS) substation Mainpuri and associated works. The project will have an estimated 1,600 km of high-voltage transmission lines facilitating power transfer worth 4,600 mw from upcoming generation plants in eastern Uttar Pradesh. The concessionaire was selected through the tariff-based competitive bidding (TBCB) route. UPPTCL has created a shell company South East U.P. Power Transmission Company Ltd that has been transferred to Isolux Corsan. The developer will build and operate the project under a concession period of 37 years and six months.

The project awarded to the consortium of Cobra and Megha Engineering under the TBCB route is equally significant. It will involve setting up of the 765kV Mainpuri-Hapur and Mainpuri-Greater Noida Line and two 765/400kV substations at Hapur and Greater Noida. In all, the project, awarded to the consortium in May 2011, will entail building of nearly 900 km of transmission lines and at least six substations, with an investment of over Rs.800 crore. A shell company called Western U.P. Power Transmission Company Ltd has been created for this project.

Speaking of the current status of the two PPP projects awarded, UPPTCL officials said that both of them have overshot their originally envisaged deadline. Currently, each of them is around 50 per cent complete. The projects have been awarded on BOOT basis using the tariff-based competitive bidding mechanism. The tariff regime is expected to start soon which is why the projects will be commissioned in phases, officials explained. Accordingly, it is expected that the first phase of the project awarded to Isolux Corsan will commission by December 2015 while that of the Cobra-Megha project, by July 2015.

Haryana: India’s first intrastate power transmission line to come up on DBFOT basis has been in Haryana. In March 2012, Jhajjar KT Transco Ltd, a special purpose vehicle promoted by Kalpataru Power Transmission Ltd and Techno Electric Engineering, commissioned the 400/220kV evacuation system associated with CLP India’s 2x660-mw Jhajjar supercritical power plant in the state. A senior official of Haryana Vidyut Prasaran Nigam Ltd, the state transmission utility, said that there were currently no other projects planned on PPP basis. However, as the transmission system is now in full operation, the utility was in the process of appointing an independent engineer to oversee day-to-day operations.

The Jhajjar transmission system involves two 400kV double-circuit lines – Jharli to Kabulpur (65 km) and Kabulpur to Dibalpur (34 km) and two 440/220kV substations at Kabulpur and Dipalpur respectively.

The Kalpataru-Techno consortium had won the project by quoting a (positive) grant of Rs.93.90 crore payable by HVPNL, the grantor of concession. Project SPV Jhajjar KT Transco Ltd received transmission licence from state regulator Haryana Electricity Regulatory Commission in October 2010 and also attained financial closure shortly thereafter. The bidding process for selecting the developer was initiated in January 2009.

Power from this project will be purchased by Uttar Haryana Bijli Vitaran Nigam Ltd (UHBVNL) and Dakshin Haryana Bijli Vitaran Nigam Ltd (DHBVNL) for which Haryana Power Purchase Centre (HPPC), the nodal agency for both the power distribution utilities, has signed a power purchase agreement with CLP India.

Maharashtra: This western state has not shown much inclination in using the PPP mode for intrastate power transmission. Currently, there is only case of PPP represented by the joint venture with the JSW Energy group. However, there are private players, like Adani Power and RattanIndia Power, owing and running transmission systems in which the state government or the state power transmission utility (Mahatransco) has no equity stake. Speaking to Electrical Monitor, a highly placed official of Mahatransco explained that there are no PPP projects envisaged in the near future. Details of various schemes are provided below.

JSW: In around 2008, Mahatransco formed a joint venture with JSW Group to set up a power evacuation system for upcoming power projects in western Maharashtra. Accordingly, Jaigad Power Transco Ltd was incorporated with JSW Group holding 74 per cent and Mahatransco holding the minority 26 per cent. In December 2011, the 400kV transmission system comprising the Jaigad-New Koyna line (55 km) and Jaigad-Karad line (110 km) was fully commissioned, with a transfer capacity of around 2,500 mw. The transmission system mainly addresses the 1,200-mw Jaigad power generation project of JSW Group. In future, it will be used for other generation plants proposed in the Jaigad region.

Adani: Mahatransco later planned a similar joint venture with the Adani Group to set up evacuation systems for upcoming power projects in northeastern Maharashtra, including Adani Group’s 3,300 mw Tiroda project in the region. The joint venture Maharashtra Eastern Grid Transmission Company Ltd (MEGTCL) was incorporated in February 2010. Although Mahatransco was to be a minority partner in the joint venture, the state utility appears to have pulled out. A senior project official of Mahatransco confirmed over phone that the state transmission utility had no stake in MEGTCL. MEGTCL is setting up a massive 765kV power transmission network with an outlay of over Rs.5,000 crore. Major locations to be interconnected by 765kV lines include Tiroda, Koradi, Akola and Aurangabad. The transmission network was originally scheduled to commission by August 2012. As of mid-May 2015, though major lines of the network were commissioned, the entire system awaits commissioning.

RattanIndia: RattanIndia Power Ltd, formerly Indiabulls Power Ltd, is also constructing two major transmission systems to facilitate evacuation from its upcoming 2,700-mw Amravati and 2,700-mw Sinnar coal-based power projects. Even here, the special purpose vehicles formed—Amravati Power Transmission Company Ltd (APTCL) and Sinnar Power Transmission Company Ltd (SPTCL)—are wholly-owned by RattanIndia Power without any equity participation from the state government. These two cases, much like MEGTCL, do not represent the PPP modality. The 400kV Amravati power transmission system was commissioned in March this year, while the 400kV Sinnar system awaits completion.

Summary: Maharashtra has so far refrained from the PPP route--except in one case--but has allowed private sector power generators to set up independent project-specific evacuation systems. These transmission systems are not structured on any of the typical PPP modalities like JV, DBFOT, BOOM, etc. Industry observers feel that cases like MEGTCL, APTCL and SPTCL discussed above largely serve as evacuation systems for specific projects. Hence, there is no reason for Mahatransco to get “involved” as it does not serve larger interests of the state. Mahatransco officials also explained that these transmission systems feed power from the generation stations only to the nearest point of the state grid. Thus, these systems are largely “captive” in nature where there is no perceived need for Mahatransco to participate. However, once power is injected into the state grid, Mahatransco’s role ultimately comes into play.

Tamil Nadu: In 2013, it was reported that Tamil Nadu Transmission Corporation Ltd, the state power utility, had planned to implements intrastate power transmission projects worth Rs.7,000 crore on PPP basis. However, there is not much progress on this front, according to reports available in public domain. Officials of the state utility, when contacted by phone, were not keen on any discussion.

Gujarat: Gujarat attempted to structure two intrastate projects on PPP basis using the tariff-based competitive bidding route. However, the PPP modality was scrapped making way for the projects to be executed by the state transmission utility on turnkey basis. Besides, there are no further projects under implementation or proposed to come up in the PPP modality, a senior official of Gujarat Electricity Transmission Company Ltd confirmed. The following is a brief description of the two projects where the PPP mode was overturned.

In 2008, Gujarat proposed to set up two transmission systems—400kV Mundra-Zerda and the 400kV Vadinar-Hadala—using the tariff-based competitive bidding route. The Mundra-Zerda system involved two 400kV double-circuit lines from the 400kV busbar of Adani Power Projects Ltd at Mundra to the 400kV busbar of Zerda (Kansari) substation of Gujarat Electricity Transmission Corporation Ltd (Getco). The other project involved erecting one 400kV double circuit line from the 400kV busbar of Essar Power Ltd at Vadinar to the 400kV busbar of Getco’s Halada substation in Rajkot district.

However, in November 2009, Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam Ltd (GUVNL) felt that if tariff-based bidding were adopted, the private party would not be able to complete the transmission lines in the timeframe stipulated in the power purchase agreement. Any delay in completing the transmission projects would result in GUVNL, the procurer of power, to be penalized. This, GUVNL felt, would be against the interests of the consumers. Subsequently, Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission, allowed the project to be set up by Getco on EPC/turnkey basis.

The Way Ahead

The overall success of the PPP model in intrastate power transmission has been rather limited. Till date, there are only five states that have structured at least one project on PPP basis using various modalities.

Rajasthan has been the most successful with a shelf of as many as seven projects, out of which four have been commissioned. When the PPP culture gained roots, the tariff-based bidding mechanism was the most popular. However, it is felt that in the coming years, the DBFOT mode with viability gap funding (VGF) will gain popularity. The VGF mechanism was introduced by the Central government in 2006 for infrastructure projects being implemented on PPP basis. The mechanism aimed at making projects commercially viable. Subsequently, intrastate power transmission projects were allowed to come under this ambit. Under the VGF mechanism, the Central government provides up to 20 per cent of the total project cost as capital subsidy. State governments can provide a further 20 per cent. These grants, in conjunction, can help in making projects commercially viable.

A disconcerting observation emerging from interactions with state power utilities is that over the past 2-3 years, there have not been significant instances of fresh PPP initiatives. Most of the intrastate power transmission systems currently going on have been in the making since 2010 or earlier. Further, one major project in Rajasthan did not elicit response from private sector entities. In a state like Gujarat, the PPP modality has not been deployed after two tariff-based bidding projects, proposed in 2008, failed to survive.

India’s power transmission systems are moving to higher voltages entailing technical complexities. Most state power transmission utilities have been in financial losses and lack technical competence. Setting up modern and efficient intrastate power transmission infrastructure would therefore depend on private sector enterprise. For instance, Uttar Pradesh got its first 765kV line only through the PPP modality. If the policy framework fails to lure private sector enterprise, states might fail to match upcoming power generation capacity with efficient transmission networks. This might call for the intervention of a national agency such Power Grid Corporation of India, much like what happened in one 765kV project in Uttar Pradesh.

The overall success level of private enterprise in intrastate power transmission must be raised. This can only be done through policy framework that is not only attractive but consistent across states. As of now, the VGF-based model transmission agreement appears to be a harbinger of private enterprise. State governments can improve the situation by being more proactive in addressing right-of-way issues. In terms of returns on investment, power transmission is inherently more lucrative than power generation or distribution. It is only the construction phase that is fraught with land-related impediments. Private sector—both Indian and foreign—should consider intrastate power transmission as an interesting avenue to channelize their technical and managerial enterprise. On their part, state governments should move briskly to create a shelf of opportunities, complemented by an enabling policy framework.

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