The mega-size solar energy projects planned at Ladakh, Leh and Kargil might be aborted, due to lack of takers from beneficiary states and no grid infrastructure to handle this capacity. In 2014, the central government signed an agreement with the Jammu & Kashmir government for about 7,500 Mw of solar power — 5,000 Mw in Ladakh and the rest in Kargil. The 5,000 Mw in Ladakh was included in the list of the solar ultra mega power projects (UMPPs) planned by the successor government which came to power the same year.
However, an inter-department tussle and lack of clarity on evacuation have not only delayed the project but also put a question mark on its viability. Senior executives in the central and state governments said transmission availability is a major issue and no investor, including the Centre’s Power Grid Corporation (PGCIL), would put up a transmission project. “PGCIL is already constructing a 220 Kv line to connect Leh, Ladakh and Kargil and all these remote areas with the Northern grid. This was planned five-six years before. Then, such mega solar power capacity was nowhere in the plan. If transmission is now planned for solar, it will take another five years and increase the cost to Rs 30,000-50,000 crore,” said a senior official in the Union ministry of power.
It is learnt the ministry and PGCIL have deemed the project economically unviable. When asked, the PGCIL’s chairman and managing director, I S Jha, refused to comment. An option was to offer a power project with transmission for bids but that would escalate the cost and investors might stay away, said an official in the Ladakh Renewable Energy Development Agency.Senior officials in the ministry of new and renewable energy (MNRE) confirmed the reluctance of central departments and said evacuation (of what was generated) was a major impediment, along with lack of coordination with state agencies.
“PGCIL is just building a 220 Kv line in that area and there is no plan to expand capacity. The idea to award the corridor to private companies through the bidding route has also been shelved, as it is in a strategically important location,” said an MNRE official, requesting anonymity.At the time the 2014 agreement was signed, said the official, neither state or central government agency was ready to buy power from these projects. State government officials said the autonomous hill councils of Ladakh and Kargil did not sign, as they had issues with the profit sharing. “Land acquisition would be a major issue because of it,” said one.
Peak power demand of Ladakh is 200 Mw, met by its current installed capacity of hydro and rooftop solar power, and micro grids. As the state has immense stretches of arid land, mega solar capacity was planned by the earlier government. No headway was made even after then new and renewable energy minister Farooq Abdullah signed the agreement in 2011. The present central government revived the project by adding it to its list of solar UMPPs.A transmission system, Green Corridor-I, is being built by PGCIL to connect solar-rich states. Green Corridor-II for solar parks would be either built by the project developer or bid out to private transmission companies. Ladakh does not come in either category.