Upper Karnali to alter power generation mode

Kathmandu, January 8

GMR Energy, the developer of Upper Karnali hydroelectric project, has proposed to alter electricity generation modality during certain times of the day to ensure the 900-megawatt plant does not affect downstream irrigation projects.

“The hydro project developer has expressed intention to operate its plant in run-of-the-river mode during hours when water level reaches critical level at downstream irrigation sites,” officials of the Investment Board Nepal told a press meet today. “If the developer resorts to this measure, it won’t have to build a re-regulating dam (because run-of-the-river method of electricity production releases more water).”

Earlier, it was said that the $1.4-billion Upper Karnali hydroelectric project would affect downstream irrigation projects, such as Rani-Jamara-Kuleriya, Rajapur and Surya Patuwa, during dry seasons of March and April. This was because the project developer had proposed to generate electricity through a method called peaking, in which water is collected for a certain time of the day to generate electricity during peak hours.

Considering this, the government had instructed the project developer to conduct a comprehensive study and build necessary infrastructure, such as a re-regulating dam, to minimise impact of peaking on downstream irrigation projects.

The instruction was given based on the Upper Karnali Project Development Agreement (PDA) signed between Investment Board Nepal, a government body which is overseeing implementation of the hydro project, and GMR Energy on September 19, 2014.

Although it is known that the hydro project would reduce water level in downstream irrigation projects during the dry season, the exact time of the day when water level would reach critical level is not yet known. This is because GMR Energy is yet to submit findings of its study.

GMR Energy, in coordination with the Department of Irrigation, had started conducting a detailed study on the impact of the hydro project on irrigation projects more than a year ago. However, it has not been able to submit a report as earthquakes of April and May slowed the pace of work.

The study report, which is expected to be submitted soon, will explain when the project developer intends to depend on run-of-the-river production mode and when it intends to revert to peaking generation method.

GMR Energy is building the Upper Karnali project under build-own-operate-transfer (BOOT) model. Under this model, the developer will have to hand over the project, including transmission lines, to the government free of cost and in good operating condition after 25 years of electricity generation.

GMR has said it would arrange all necessary funds to build the project within two years of signing the PDA and complete construction of hydro plant and transmission lines within five years of reaching the financial closure.