EDITORIAL: Plants sans grids

Failure to construct transmission lines on time will mean keeping hydel projects ready to generate energy idle

Private developers of many hydroelectric projects being built in major river corridors are apprehensive about not being able to evacuate energy even after the completion of their projects as the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) is running slow on construction of transmission lines. As per agreements reached with private power developers, the state-owned power utility is supposed to build transmission lines up to certain points from where they can evacuate electricity to the national grid. A number of power plants are about to complete their projects by 2020 in major river corridors. The NEA has awarded contracts to construct the transmission lines borrowing loans and grants from various lending agencies, including the Asian Development Bank and World Bank as well as US grant of $500 million under the Millennium Challenge Corporation. However, the concerned contractors have missed the deadline of building the transmission lines, causing huge financial burden to the NEA as well as independent power producers. As per the agreements, the NEA has to cough up fines up to 45 per cent to the private producers if it fails to construct the transmission lines on time.

Amidst this uncertainty, Kul Man Ghising, managing director of NEA, inspected the Solu Corridor on Sunday and told the concerned contractor – Mohan Energy Corporation Pvt Ltd, India – to finish the job of 90-km long 132kV transmission line and a sub-station within the deadline of 2019. The Rs 260 million Solu Corridor project is being constructed with investment from government of Nepal, NEA and a soft loan obtained from Indian Exim Bank. The contractor is supposed to erect 301 pylons along the corridor. But it has so far erected five pylons and dug foundations for 50 others. Various hydel projects are developing 217.5MW of electricity in the Solu region. The contractor has attributed the delay in carrying out the job on time to government’s non-cooperation to clear the forest area. This problem must be resolved soon if the project were to be completed on time.

Ghising has said delay in constructing the transmission lines and sub-station in the Solu Corridor will incur huge losses to the NEA, government and even the independent power producers. According to the PPAs reached with private power developers, the NEA has to pay 45 per cent of the total electricity generated by the producers if the transmission lines and sub-stations are not built on time. He has also warned that losses incurred due to delay in building the transmission lines and sub-station will be realised from the contractor and consulting company. This is not an isolated case where construction works have been delayed. Half a dozen private power developers are also generating over 100MW of electricity in the Marshyangdi River Corridor. Some of them are about to complete construction of power plants within this fiscal. But the NEA has just awarded the contract to build 112-km long Manang-Bharatpur 220-kV transmission lines and sub-stations. The government’s plans to generate 3,000MW of energy in three years will be limited to papers only if it fails to build the grids on time.

Keeping tabs on cabs

Taxi ride in the Capital city is a costly affair. Most of the times passengers are forced to shell out more money than the meter shows. Taking a taxi during rush hour is even more cumbersome, as it is a common practice among cabbies to demand more than the fixed fare. They even refuse to switch the meters on. To regulate the taxis in the Capital city, the government in January last year had issued a directive asking all the taxi operators in the Kathmandu Valley to install computerised billing system. But not all the taxis in the city have installed the system. On Sunday alone, traffic police booked as many as 119 taxis for plying the city streets without the system.

Traffic police action against those cabs not complying with the government regulation is a welcome move. The concept of computerised billing system was introduced after taxis were found tampering with their meters. This system requires taxis to issue receipts to passengers. But still, complaints are rife about Kathmandu taxis fleecing passengers. Authorities including traffic police must continue monitoring to regulate the taxis. Passengers also should demand bill from cabbies after every ride.