An eight-member team from CWE Investment Company is scheduled to arrive in Nepal on Tuesday to conduct a field study of the long-planned West Seti Hydropower Project located in Dadeldhura and Doti districts, officials of Investment Board Nepal (IBN) said.
The technicians will leave for the project site on Wednesday.
They will study the proposed sites for the dam and the powerhouse. CWE is a subsidiary of China Three Gorges Corporation. The West Seti project, which is designed to produce 750 MW of electricity, has remained on the drawing board for the past two decades.
IBN Chief Executive Officer Radhesh Panta said the major objective of the field visit was to verify the facts and figures of previous reports and the current scenario.
“The outcome of the study will be used for the Chinese company’s internal assessment,” said Gaurav Basnyat, project manager at IBN. “They will make a study of the technical, social and economic aspects.”
The changes made in the management structure of CWE is another reason behind the study, said IBN. Previously, CWE could make any decision independently, however, with the new management, it has to get the go-ahead from Three Gorges first.
“The project consultant too has been changed for this purpose, and the new consultant wants to recheck the details,” said Basnyat, adding that the study had been initiated to satisfy the internal process.
IBN officials will also be joining the study tour. Apart from assisting the officials from China, the team will create a framework to take the project ahead. According to Basnyat, IBN has asked the Chinese developer not to “dillydally” over minor issues and invited it to begin negotiations for a project development agreement (PDA).
IBN said that a lot of work regarding ground level data had been finished and that the findings had been internalized, so there was no need to conduct detailed studies of the project. “We want the company to conduct its research and start PDA negotiations at the same time,” Basnyat said. He added that IBN had also asked CWE to submit its findings at the earliest.
IBN and CWE signed a memorandum of understanding on developing the project around two and a half years ago.
A number of issues like lack of clarity regarding the power purchase agreement (PPA) and the construction of the transmission line, which is to be done by the Nepal Electricity Authority and the Ministry of Energy, has slowed down the Chinese developer, sources said.
In addition, the subject of energy consumption is one of the most crucial issues that has delayed the project’s construction. While the power produced by two other mega projects, Upper Karnali and Arun III each with a capacity of 900 MW, is primarily meant for export, the energy from West Seti is intended for domestic consumption.
CWE is also said to be sceptical about whether the domestic market can absorb 750 MW of energy or not. Last month, a CWE team had visited Nepal to study the country’s power consumption scenario. It is likely to submit its report to CWE and IBN within two months.
Likewise, lack of coordination between IBN and the Energy Ministry has also impacted project development. The ministry has been saying that the project is not economically viable since it needs a very long transmission line for evacuating the energy through the national grid.
In a bid to clear things up, the parliamentary Agriculture and Water Resource Committee had recently directed the two government agencies to come up with a common stance on the project’s development.
The first study on West Seti, which will be the biggest reservoir-based project, was conducted in 1987. Two decades ago, an Australian company Snowy Mountain Engineering Corporation (SMEC) had shown interest in building the project. The government and SMEC had even signed an agreement on its construction. However, SMEC did not start work on time and its licence was cancelled.