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ISLAMABAD: Three Wind Independent Power Producers (IPPs) have expressed concern at the delay in completion of transmission line, from Gharo Cluster, which is creating hurdles in their smooth operation and consequently inflicting financial loss.

These concerns were conveyed by three wind power projects, i.e., Hydrochina Dawood Power (Pvt) Limited, Zephyr Power Limited and Tenaga Generasi Limited, in a joint letter to National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) - the concerns related to obstacles in smooth operations of wind power generation facilities set up by them in Gharo, Sindh.

The Wind Independent Power Projects (IPPs) sector represents over $3.5 billion capital investment in Pakistan, which is now expected to increase as the country moves towards further investment in the renewable energy sector to reduce dependence on fuel imports.

Sindh trying for energy self-sufficiency via renewables, says secretary

However, the three “annoyed” wind IPPs believe that Pakistan’s renewable energy sector is no longer bankable due to insufficient, stable and maintained transmission infrastructure.

According to the joint letter signed by Ayaz Dawood, Kumayl Khaleeli and Shamoon Chaudry, the Companies have written on multiple occasions to the Central Power Purchasing Agency-Guaranteed (CPPA- G) in support of improving the stability/ evacuation capability of their transmission infrastructure. The CPPA-G has forwarded letters to the National Transmission and Despatch Company (NTDC), which has not responded to any of the queries to either CPPA-G or the Companies.

Wind power companies, in their communications have requested the CPPA-G, being party to their Energy Purchase Agreement (EPA), to resolve the transmission infrastructure shortcomings on an immediate basis including, but not limited to, completion of the Gharo 132kV/ 220kV substation and provision of a 132kV double circuit evacuation (currently single circuit), as defined under grid interconnection studies, etc., so that Gharo Cluster can be in compliance with grid interconnection studies, EPA and Grid Code.

Wind IPPs are of the view that their assets which are built and are to be maintained to the highest standards are being dispatched on public sector transmission infrastructure which has limited/ restricted minimum standards of maintenance due to a variety of reasons.

Since December 2022, the three wind IPPs have had 77 load curtailment events. In the recent past the Companies have had to struggle and survive the worst wind period since inception. Now, with an improvement in wind characteristics, the line failure/ excessive grid curtailment/ grid tripping is significantly financially impacting the investment thesis of stakeholders and also technically causing damage to their sensitive equipment besides unnecessary “ageing” of the WTGs etc., which will result in long term operational, maintenance and insurance costs.

On April 28, 2023, a dozen 220kV transmission towers that connect the Gharo Cluster to Jhimpir Substation were completely damaged and some were partially destroyed.

The explanation of infrastructure failure (i.e., high winds) is not acceptable as the transmission towers, as with WTGs, should be designed to operate in such conditions. Wind IPPs have requested the Power Division and Nepra to immediately conduct a detailed third party inquiry for the following confirmations to be made available with the Gharo Cluster: (i) technical design parameters of the tower, including limitations; (ii) wind characteristics and impact area with evidence of weather stations/ data points; (iii) maintenance schedule based on global industry best practices of transmission infrastructure which are consistent with the mission statement of NTDC; (iv) evidence of ongoing schedule and unscheduled maintenance of transmission infrastructure (in particular of towers in question) based on said schedule; and (v) revision of transmission towers design in light of failures in their wind corridor.

The Companies are closely monitoring the activity on the restoration of transmission line by the NTDC and it is observed that the restoration activity has not yet been initiated.

Furthermore, Wind IPPs do not have clarity on when the repairing activity of the damaged transmission line will be initiated, and fear that it probably may require some more days or even weeks due to long bureaucratic process involved.

On February 23, 2023, Chairman Nepra hosted the Wind IPPs, along with NTDC/ NPCC and with the CPPA-G in attendance. During the meeting the System Operator (NPCC) informed the Nepra and Wind IPPs that their existing transmission infrastructure was not stable to evacuate wind energy generation. Furthermore, it informed the Nepra that its system does not have the necessary Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) and plant-wise data to effectively manage the INFRA.

During the same meeting, the NPCC discussed potential short-term technical mitigants, which included, but were not limited to, the network transfer of the Gharo Cluster from NTDC to K-Electric (KE). This transfer will result in lowering the load in Jhimpir and assist in reducing the curtailment for Wind IPPs in both Gharo and Jhimpir. This transfer was also done between 2019 and 2021 with the re-connection being available at a minimal cost. The IPPs recommended that this option be seriously considered as it is a viable solution for not only addressing the immediate issue of non-evacuation due to damaged towers but also the industry wide curtailment over the long term.

The three Wind IPPs have sympathized with the NTDC for different reasons in delay of transmission line, adding that these same challenges have impacted all 36 Wind IPPs during their development and construction. Despite these challenges the 36 Wind IPPs with their limited resources have in proper form fulfilled their obligation and achieved their Commercial Operation Date (COD).

“Our Wind IPPs are world class, private sector, generation assets due to the technical standards we are required to meet to connect to the national grid (i.e., n-1 plant requirements, factory and site acceptance testing requirements, etc.). We require the same from our public sector institutions, on an immediate and war-footing basis, to develop, build and maintain the transmission assets they have been entrusted by the people of Pakistan,” said the three IPPs in their joint letter.

The Companies argue that they require CPPA-G and Nepra to share the relevant communications from NTDC, CPPA-G and Nepra, justifying to all stakeholders (including the end consumer/ public) the delays on meeting their obligations. Each government institution has its own fiduciary responsibility to its respective counter parties and only when each institution is fulfilling its own obligations can the best outcome for the end consumer be achieved.

“Any risks due to delays should be parked with the respective party and not be allowed to be transferred. We do hope all stakeholders including regulator will be on board by understanding the aggravated situation the Gharo Cluster is continuously facing and will take concrete steps by resolving all the transmission line network’s aforementioned issues and putting efforts to minimize the frequency of NPES by upgrading the transmission line network system on war footing basis,” said the Wind IPPs.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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Mohsin Merchant May 16, 2023 09:51am
As per an article published in a daily English paper on July 14, 2021, The National Transmission and Despatch Company (NTDC) on Tuesday secured Rs6.4 billion financing from a three-member consortium of banks for the construction of a 220kV/132kV grid station and 35 kilometer-long allied transmission lines for getting 1,274MW of lean renewable energy power from 10 wind energy projects being set up in Gharo-Jhimpir wind corridor near Tando Muhammad Khan in Sindh OR is it different project ?
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