NEW DELHI: The government has invoked special powers under the Electricity Act of 2003, directing the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) to clear a clutch of inter-state transmission lines under the public sector route to save solar and wind power projects worth Rs 40,000 crore from getting stranded.
Invoking Section 107 of the Act, a written directive from the power ministry has asked CERC to approve the lines for which state-run PowerGrid had sought approval before new norms for clearing transmission infrastructure was implemented in June last year. The directive also seeks speedy clearance to transmission lines finalised under the previous norms once the utility applies for approval.
Section 107 of the Act allows the Centre to declare projects to be of public/national importance and issue executive directive to regulators to clear them for implementation by central utilities.
The ministry’s hand was forced after CERC refused to clear the lines on the ground they were finalised before the ‘Regulation for Transmission Line Planning’ was notified in June 2018 and said approval should be sought under the new rules — a year-long process. This would have resulted in a situation where the renewable projects would have started coming on stream before the power evacuation infrastructure was in place. This would have stranded the investments in the power projects.
Sources said the directive covers transmission lines required by the end of 2020 in Phase – I for 12.5 GW (giga watt) of renewable projects either under implementation or tendered, for which regulatory approvals had already been sought under the old norms. The directive also covers lines for 15.5 GW under Phase-I and 38.5 GW in Phase-II, which were finalised under previous policy and are in for approval.
Under the process prevailing before the CERC rules were notified, Central Electricity Authority and PowerGrid planned transmission schemes based on location of green power projects. The Standing Committee on Transmission, which had states as members, would vet the schemes before sending them to National Committee on Transmission headed by the CEA chairperson. Thereafter the proposals would be examined by an empowered committee headed by the power secretary before being sent for CERC tariff approval. This process took about a year.
Under new norms, PowerGrid plans transmission schemes every six months and seek stakeholder comment before sending to Regional Power Committee, which would then send it for CERC approval.
At present 80 GW of renewable energy transmission capacity is in operation, while the country is moving towards achieving a renewable energy capacity of 175 GW by 2022. India currently has 78, 359 MW of renewable energy capacity, which is about 21% of the 3,56,817 MW of total installed capacity.