Contractor halts work at Dhalkebar substation

Kathmandu, July 23

Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) may face difficulty in eliminating load shedding from across the country as the Chinese contractor — Central China Power Grid International Economic and Trade Co Ltd — has been intentionally delaying work at Dhalkebar substation, which is a crucial project for Nepal-India electricity trade.

The contractor has halted works since last week, according to Radhesharan Mahato, project manager of Dhalkebar substation.

The same contractor of Dhalkebar substation was also working in Bharatpur-Bardaghat transmission line project. The NEA had terminated the contract of the transmission line project with the same contractor on June 5 citing delay in the project. Following the termination of Bharatpur-Bardaghat transmission line project, the contractor started showing dissatisfaction with NEA by delaying the works at the critical project, Dhalkebar substation, which was supposed to be completed by early 2017.

Nepal-India energy secretary level talks held in February had also taken into account that the project will be completed by August this year. The contractor has halted the works putting forward undue demands since last week. It has asked NEA to release the escalated cost, clear the site of Inaruwa substation where the same contractor is working, among others.

“The contractor had also sent a letter to NEA stating that it would terminate the contract if the demand was not fulfilled promptly,” as per NEA sources. NEA has already released half of estimated cost to the contractor. Especially for projects funded by World Bank, the executing agency has to release the payment for equipment to the contractor, after it submits the shipment order of the equipment.

“The contractors normally generate profit from the delivery of equipment despite low bidding for the field level works and they seem reluctant to complete the project works on time,” a high-level official at NEA told The Himalayan Times. “The NEA has also proposed to release 50 per cent of the payment for equipment only after the completion of works to make the contractor liable.”

As per the progress review of works done by NEA, it will take another five months for the contractor to complete the work at Dhalkebar substation if everything moves ahead smoothly.

The country will be able to import an additional 100 megawatts of electricity on top of the existing 145 megawatts from India after the Dhalkebar substation has been charged at 220 kV, which is critical to end load shedding, according to NEA officials.

As power demand is expected to hover around 1,500 megawatts in peak hours in winter this year, increasing import from India is vital for NEA for load management during the winter season. The power utility had announced that it would end load shedding across the country from Nepali New Year.

NEA Managing Director Kulman Ghising, however, said NEA will do its best to ensure regular electricity supply in major cities in this winter too. NEA had announced that it would eliminate the problem of load shedding through demand and supply side management, which includes distributing LED bulbs that consume less energy and increasing import from India. However, it seems unlikely that both the plans will materialise.

NEA has also been planning to enhance the capacity of the Dhalkebar substation to 400 kv by 2019 to enhance power cooperation between India and Nepal. However, the delay in completion of 220 kv substation could hit NEA’s plan to enhance the capacity of substation in the future.

Kulekhani III in limbo

KATHMANDU: Many NEA projects are not moving ahead within the desired timeframe as the contractors are delaying the works. The 14-megawatt Kulekhani III project, which was expected to be completed before the winter season this year will be affected as the electromechanical contractor of the Kulekhani project — Zhejiang Jialin — has halted the works since long citing that NEA has not settled its variation claims.