As India moves ahead with its clean energy expansion plans, aimed at achieving 450 GW of renewables by 2030, the need for an efficient and enhanced grid infrastructure has assumed centre stage in power sector planning, given the large anticipated influx of intermittent renewables. In this regard, the Green Energy Corridors project, which was conceptualised in 2012, is the most important link in realising India’s renewable energy targets. Planned to integrate nearly 60 GW of renewable energy into the state and national grids, the project is critical to ensure a smooth green energy transition.
However, originally scheduled to be completed in March 2020, the project is still quite far from completion. Transmission projects have a longer gestation period than renewable energy projects and thus need to be planned accordingly. There have been several instances of project timelines being extended due to delays in the construction of power evacuation infrastructure and long-term access operationalisation. In fact, construction work continues to be stuck for many of the transmission lines in the renewable-rich states of Gujarat and Rajasthan, which are major hotspots for upcoming projects. This is further expected to cause significant delays in the commissioning and evacuation of power from the planned project pipeline.
Such instances impact developer confidence and thus, in the past, have led to the postponement of bids and even cancellation of tenders. In the case of operational projects, inadequate grid availability has often led to periods of heavy curtailment in renewable-rich states, leading to substantial revenue losses for developers. Further, the Supreme Court has recently ordered the Gujarat and Rajasthan governments to safeguard the Great Indian Bustard by ensuring that all transmission lines for current and future projects in the bird habitat are underground, wherever feasible. Overall, this is expected to impact the operations of existing projects as well as lead to significant expenses for developers.
While steps have been taken by the government to attract investments in the transmission segment through competitive bidding, the time mismatch between transmission and generation projects needs to be minimised urgently. Large renewable energy projects serve no purpose without adequate links to transport power from them to load centres. Thus, all renewable energy-related grid projects should be fast-tracked, and transmission infrastructure strengthened so as to adequately accommodate the large volumes of expected renewable power capacity in the coming decade.