“We have Rs 470 billion of projects in hand”: Views of POWERGRID’s Abhay Choudhary

At a recent Power Line conference, Abhay Choudhary, Director (Projects), Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (POWERGRID), spoke about the key operational and financial achievements of the company in recent years, the new technologies being adopted by the company as well as its future plans and priorities. He also shared his perspective on the future outlook for the power transmission segment in the country. Edited excerpts as follows…

The Indian power sector has one of the most robust power systems in the world. Some years back, we had peak power shortages, but we are now a power-surplus coun­try. India has state-of-the-art transmission infrastructure, which is at par with the transmission systems across the globe. We are the pioneers in the adoption of advanced transmission technologies. Countries across the globe are adopting our technologies, especially those developed by POWERGRID. With the government focusing on decarbonisation, we are integrating large volumes of renewable energy into the grid, while maintaining stable operations and focusing on dynamic compensation.

Overview and operational performance

POWERGRID is a Maharatna company, the third largest in terms of central public sector enterprises, operating the pan-Indian transmission network. Nearly 85 per cent of the interstate transmission network is owned by POWERGRID or its subsidiaries. We also operate around 4,000 MW of cross-border interconnections with Nepal, Bhutan and Bangla­de­sh. We are mainly importing from Bhu­tan and exporting to the other three co­un­tries. We have a global footprint in abo­ut 23 countries. We have 28 subsi­di­aries that are mainly special purpose ve­hicles for projects secured through the tariff-ba­s­ed competitive bidding (TBCB) rou­te. With regard to credit rating, our rating by international agencies is at par with sovereign ratings, that is, Standard & Po­or’s: BBB; Fitch: BBB; and Moody’s: Baa3. We have the highest credit rating of AAA by domestic rating agencies such as CRISIL, ICRA and CARE.

We operate 1,448 transmission lines aggregating 173,790 ckt. km and 270 substations aggregating 493,000 MVA of transformation capacity. About 97,300 MW of interregional capacity is owned by POWERGRID. Out of 270 substations, 18 are high voltage direct current (HVDC) substations, 60 are 765 kV substations and 162. are 400 kV substations. Our asset base includes 17 static var com­­pensators/static synchronous com­pensators, 57 gas-insulated swit­ch­gear (GIS) substations, over 280,000 transmi­s­sion towers and more than 3,600 transformers and reactors.

In terms of operational performance, our system availability is more than 99.8 per cent. Further, the trippings per line have reached just 0.21 and we are trying to maintain the same.

During 2022-23, the total target of capital expenditure (capex) is around Rs 88 billion and we will achieve it by the end of the fourth quarter.

Adoption of latest technologies

For on-ground patrolling of transmission lines, we are using a GPS-enabled application wherein unless a person reaches the tower, the app would not be logged in. We also use high reso­lution cameras and we declare the line as com­missioned and commercially operatio­n­al only when our asset management te­am visits the site and takes high resolution pictures from different elevations.

We also use helicopters and drones for aerial patrolling of transmission lines. We undertake geo­graphic information system mapping for each tower. Thus, we are taking preventive measures for a particular line and ensure swift res­toration in case of storms and other extreme we­a­ther conditions. We continuously monitor con­di­tions of trans­formers and reactors, conduct as­set health in­dexing of substation equipment regularly and de­vise suitable maintenance strategies accordingly.

Financial performance

During the first nine months of financial year 2022-23, the company’s total income stood at Rs 340.48 billion, marking an increase of 8 per cent over that in the corresponding period in the previous year. Meanwhile, the company’s total profit after tax was recorded at Rs 110.97 billion, a growth of 11 per cent during the same period in the previous year.

Consultancy performance

We are delivering consultancy services to domestic and international clients. Our clients include state-owned utilities, private utilities, central public sector undertakings, government departments and various international clients. We have a large number of domestic and foreign consultancy as­si­gnments. On the domestic front, we have recei­ved five new orders during the third quarter of financial year 2022-23 and we have 70 ongoing assignments and orders. In the international market, we received two new orders during the third quarter of FY2023 and there are 17 ongoing as­signments. These assignments pertain to tower diversion, rural electrification, lo­ad despatch and communication, smart grid, renewable energy management and energy efficiency.

Other businesses

Smart metering: There is a potential opportunity for installing 250 million smart meters in the country. We have initiated the procurement pro­cess for end-to-end smart metering solutions for 10 million smart meters. The finalisation of the MoU for the same is under pro­cess. We are in di­scussion with the states for implementing ad­vanced metering infrastructure (AMI) through the MoU route. We have signed an MoU with Madh­ya Gujarat Vij Company Limited and Uttar Gujarat Vij Company Limited for the implementation of AMI systems for 6.6 million meters.

Solar power generation: We are committed to sourcing 50 per cent of our electricity consumption from non-fossil fuels by 2025. For our first 85 MW commercial solar photovoltaic project at Nagda, financial bids have been opened. Besi­des, the detailed project report for an additional 82 MW capacity at Aur­an­ga­bad, Jabalpur, Kha­m­mam and War­dha is under finalisation.

Awards and accolades

We have received the 2022 Platts Global Energy Award under the Corporate Impact Award in the Cri­tical Response category for our emergency res­ponse systems during cyclones and earthquakes in Gujarat and Odisha. We also got two patents recently. Our research and deve­lopment team got patents for “Energy Efficient All Season Roof Screening” and “Smart Socket and Smart Home Energy Manager” developed in collaboration with IIT Kharagpur.

Future outlook

As of January 31, 2023, India has an installed capacity of 411 GW including non-fossil generation capacity of 175 GW. The government aims to expand this 175 GW renewable generation ca­pacity to 500 GW by 2030. The transmission system for the integration of 66.5 GW of renewable energy capacity has already been plan­­ned. While a part of it has been commissioned, the rest is at various stages of implementation/bidding. In addition to this, the transmission system has been planned for 236 GW of renewable energy capacity for major renew­abl­e energy potential zones such as the Leh renewable energy park in Ladakh; Fatehgarh, Bhadla and Bikaner in Rajas­than; the Khavda renewable energy park in Guja­rat; the Anantapur and Kur­nool re­ne­w­able energy zones in Andhra Pra­desh; and offshore wind farms in Ta­mil Nadu and Gujarat.

With all the above transmission systems, there will be an additional 50,890 ckt. km of transmission lines and 433,575 MVA of substation ca­pacity under the interstate transmission system for additional solar and wind capacity, entailing an additional investment of about Rs 2.44 trillion. Transmission systems for nearly Rs 230 billion are under bidding, while transmission systems for Rs 340 billion have been approved to be put up for bidding.

We have won numerous TBCB projects in the past few months. We have secured nine projects entailing an investment of Rs 77.46 billion. These are mostly for the evacuation of renewable energy. We have projects worth Rs 470 billion in hand. Out of the total new projects, our regulated tariff mechanism projects are worth Rs 270 billion and TBCB projects are worth 130 billion. Our capex is expected to be Rs 88 billion in the next year.