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India plans underwater power line to Sri Lanka

December 29, 2010 15:16 IST

Indian flagIndia's first undersea power transmission project with Sri Lanka is likely to be implemented by 2014.

The Power Grid Corporation, India's largest electricity transmission firm, which will execute the project, will give the detailed project report to the Centre within a month.

"It is upon the ministry then to put the plan on fast track," said a top PowerGrid official. The 250-300 km power link, including submarine cables over a stretch of over 50 km, will be jointly implemented by PowerGrid and Ceylon Electricity Board.

The project is expected to start by 2014.

CEB, too, seemed optimistic about the date of the project.

"If everything goes well, the project will take off. But I am not sure about the timing, since we have to wait for a feasibility report.

On the basis of the report, we will fine-tune the plan," said Vidya Amarapala, CEB chairman.

"The estimated cost of this venture will be Rs 3,000-4,000 crore (Rs 30-40 billion) and is likely to transmit about 1,000 Mw by the end of 12th Five Year Plan period," the Power Grid official said.

The possible spot for this linkage is between Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu and Talaimannar in Sri Lanka. "The final decision on exact route will be taken by the two governments," he added.

CEB is the largest electricity company in the island nation, with an installed capacity of 2,684 Mw, of which approximately 1,290 Mw is of thermal energy, and 1,207 Mw of hydroelectricity.

India's largest power producer, NTPC, too, has plans to foray into Sri Lanka by setting up a 500-Mw plant in association with CEB. This project, too, is in the final stages of clearance by the central government.

"It will be a direct link. There are similar grid connectivities in other parts of the world like the United Kingdom to Europe, the United States to Canada and East Europe to European grid.

"The technology for submarine transmission will be the same as these countries are using now," Amarapala said.

"PowerGrid already has some overseas projects going on. While the Bhutan project is operational, a linkage with Bangladesh is under construction. But the Sri Lanka venture is important as it is an underwater linkage," the PowerGrid official said.

However, experts are skeptical. "For the power industry, this will not have any impact other than just a bilateral confidence-building measure.

The technology should be of global standard as an underwater line needs higher expertise compared to in-land power linkage and it will be a challenge for both the countries. If works out, it may help us in transmitting the power produced by NTPC plant in Sri Lanka," said Rupesh Sankhe, a research analyst with Angel Broking.

"This might also be a strategic measure to counter the growing Chinese presence in Indian ocean. I don't think a project in Sri Lanka would be financially viable, as it is not a favourite destination for private investors," Sankhe said.

The CEB, however, has a different take on this.

"CEB expects this bilateral project to be beneficial for both countries. We want it to be balanced marriage," Amarapala said.

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