Line to Link India, Lanka
Apr 22, 2008 - The Times of India
India and Sri Lanka are working on
a plan to lay a transmission line under the sea
to connect the power distribution networks of the
two countries so that electricity can be supplied
by one when the other is running short.
An initial report prepared by the Indian state-owned
transmission utility PowerGrid has pegged the cost
of the project at Rs 2,292 crore and said it could
be completed within 42 months of getting investment
The report projects laying a power cable under
the Gulf of Mannar between Rameswaram in Tamil
Nadu and Talaimannar on the left flank of the Mannar
islands in Sri Lanka.
On the Indian side, the undersea cable will be
connected to the southern grid at Madurai through
an overhead transmission line. On the Sri Lanka
side, the underwater cable will be linked to that
country's network at Anuradhapura through an overhead
The undersea link will be laid on the sea bed
just as telecom and internet cables run across
ocean beds around the world. It will have safeguards
on both sides against electrocution in case of
damage from ship anchors or sharks. An optic-fibre
cable will also run alongside the main power cable
to keep an eye on the link and also provide extra
telecom capacity between the two countries.
The project, like any transnational energy link,
will admittedly be a long-haul affair. But junior
power minister Jairam Ramesh is quite gung-ho.
The next stage will be to prepare a detailed report
and both countries will share the cost.
"The idea is to use electricity as a tool
of regional integration. This can be an ideal example.
We are already working with Bhutan while Power
Trading Corporation and private sector GMR have
got projects in Nepal and we are looking at linking
up with Bangladesh and Myanmar," Ramesh told
The report prepared by PowerGrid says the power
supply scenario between India and Sri Lanka will
allow them to exchange about 500MW of electricity
in the short term, or by 2009-10.
Once the two sides settle down with this quantity,
the flow of power can be ramped up to 1,000MW,
roughly one-third of Delhi's present consumption,
in the medium-to-long term of 2011-12 through 2015-16.
These are the time frames when the generation capacities
in both countries are projected to improve, with
surplus in the Indian southern grid.
At present, India is facing a 16% electricity
shortage, with a peak demand of 1,07,000MW. The
government plans to add 78,500MW capacity by 2012,
with more envisaged in the captive and merchant
segments by private investors.
Many other proposals such as the Krishnapatnam
ultra-mega power project are in the pipeline, which,
after taking into account the projected growth
in load, suggests that there will be surplus of
6,000MW during peak hours and 12,300MW during lean
In comparison, Sri Lanka has about 1,660MW of
peak demand and does not have any appreciable surplus
or deficit. Nearly half of the power generated
in the country comes from hydro sources, while
the remaining power comes from plants burning costly
Though it has plans to add 3,080MW capacity by
2016, it faces a tough situation. Almost half of
the total hydel potential of 2,000MW has been tapped
and new projects will be difficult to implement
due to social and environmental problems.
The existing hydel projects run low during poor
monsoon and in the dry season. This means that
if all the planned coal- and gas- fired plants
come up, then the country will have a surplus of
1,500MW during off-peak hours. But if only half
of them come up, then the country will face a shortage
of 500-1,500MW peak shortfall.
It is clear that the planned interconnect between
the two countries will provide hydel support to
Sri Lanka, while India can seek thermal support
from its neighbour in winters.
The difference in festival holidays and resultant
drop in demand also provides good opportunity for
exchange. The link will help Sri Lanka reduce use
of expensive fuels and import cheaper power. For
India, the link will open up a new market for its
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