India Becomes Net Exporter of Power

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India became net exporter of electricity in the current financial year, reinforcing the turnaround story in the country’s power sector but also underlining the demand slack in the changing narrative.

Using power trade as a tool for diplomacy, India spread goodwill in its neighborhood extending up to Myanmar by exporting 5,798 MU (million units) during the April 2016-February 2017 period. This is roughly 4% more than 5,585 MU it imported from Bhutan, data from Central Electricity Authority (CEA) shows.

India started cross-border trade in electricity since the mid 80’s, essentially with importing power from hydel projects build in Bhutan and supplying small quantities to Nepal as part of government-to-government deals. Since then, the country has established a mesh of cross-border interlinks for supplying to Nepal and Bangladesh.

On an average, India has been importing 5,000-5,500 MUs from Bhutan, while exporting 190 MW to Nepal over 12 cross-border lines from Bihar and UP and 600 MW to Bangladesh through two interconnects from Bengal and Tripura. As a result of rising cross-border wheeling capacity, export to Nepal and Bangladesh have showed an increase of 2.5 and 2.8 times, respectively, in the last three years.

The development also coincides with efforts to export coal to Bangladesh — an indication of the situation changing from shortage to surplus. India’s power plants were facing acute fuel shortage till three years back. But steps taken by the Narendra Modi government in the last three years have brought it to a position where it needs to look at exports, even if in small quantities, to maintain pace of mining and reduce stocks piling up at mines.

But the expanding supplies beyond borders also point to the slow growth in demand at home. Consider: the peak shortage stood at 1.6% in the period till February in the current fiscal against 4.7% in 2014-15, while peak shortage has reduced to 0.7% from 4.7% in the same period. But at the same time, power plants on a national average are operating at roughly 60%, down from nearly 65% in 2014-15.

But government officials say the power demand has shown a 6% growth and if energy saving from demand-side management measures such as the LED bulb programme are taken into consideration, the growth would be 9%.
Undaunted by the condition in the domestic power market, India is working with Bangladesh on a plan to double the capacity of existing transmission interconnects and set up a third link for increasing cross-border electricity trade in a bid to widen the regional market as new generation capacities come up on both sides.
Sources said the two sides are working to double the capacity of the Baharmapur-Bheramara line to 1,000 MW and also examine the possibility of raising the Tripura-Comilla line’s capacity to 200 MW. Also on the table is a proposal to lay a third line from Assam’s Bongaigaon to a suitable interconnect point in Bihar through Bangladesh. Though the proposal is at a nascent stage, sources said a HVDC (high-voltage, direct current) line with a capacity of around 2,000 MW is being looked at.
This third line is expected to wheel power from hydel projects proposed to be built in India’s northeast, some of which can also be shared with Bangladesh. This line would allow an easy tap-in or tap-off facility for both countries to feed — or plug into — each other’s markets.
Source: TimeofIndia
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