Ballooning burden


    KATHMANDU, OCT 08 – With the imports amounting to over 65 percent of the country’s total exports due to over dependence on petroleum products, Nepal needs to change its energy consumption pattern to cut energy deficiency.
    The demand for electricity has outpaced the supply, which is growing at the rate of 100 MW per annum. Currently, the country sees power shortfall during the winter by about 450 MW, while the total installed capacity is around 588 MW.
    Electricity that has direct impact on economy accounts for only two percent of Nepal’s energy demand. For instance, one unit of electricity is believed to spur economic growth five times, said Anup Upadhyay, joint secretary at the Energy Ministry. “Unfortunately, we don’t use enough electricity for lighting, let alone industrial consumption,” he said. “If we don’t act now, there will be an acute power shortage in five years.”
    A report of the Water and Energy Commission Secretariat (WECS) shows only 43 percent of electricity is used for residential purpose and the remaining for industrial and commercial. Electricity shortfall has pushed up the import of petroleum products. Nepal imports petroleum products worth Rs 92.26 billion annually from India just to meet 10 percent of the total energy consumption. This amount equals one third of the country’s total budget. Nepal’s total commodity export stands at Rs 74.26 billion, which is insufficient to import petroleum products.
    Upadhyay said the import of diesel, used to generate electricity, has seen a dramatic increase. An estimated 500 MW is generated from diesel plants run by industries, hotels and commercial sector, which, if connected to the national grid, is enough to reduce power crisis in the winter.
    Due to poor public transportation, Nepalis increasingly rely on private vehicles, thus maximising the petroleum consumption. Over a million of vehicles, half of them motorbikes alone, are registered across the country.
    Firewood that has adverse environmental impacts contributes to meet almost 78 percent of the power demand. It is said that the country burns 18 million tonnes of wood. Another WECS report has suggested limiting consumption of forest wood to 12 million tonnes to meet the government target of maintaining 40 percent forest cover. The use of firewood has remained static over the last decade.
    If the energy consumption trend is anything to go by, the productive industrial and commercial sectors consume only 3.3 and 1.3 percent of energy respectively. Transportation consumes 5.2 percent and agriculture merely 0.9 percent, while 89.1 percent of energy is used by the residential sector. About 63 percent of petroleum is consumed by the transport sector, while industrial and commercial sector account for 8 percent and 1.4 percent respectively.
    The consumption of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) has increased dramatically, from 81,000 tonnes in 2006 to 160,000 tonnes in 2011. “LPG should be replaced with clean energy as a sustainable solution,” Amrit Nakarmi, an energy expert. However, the government has heavily subsidised LPG and the NOC incurs losses of Rs 5.49 billion every year.
    “We have no choice but to generate electricity to address the energy crisis,” said Nakarmi. “The country cannot afford to import petroleum products.”
    It is high time for the government to expedite the construction of hydropower projects ranging from the micro to bigger ones.

    Source : The Kathmandu Post (DEWAN RAI)