Damaged hydropower plants yet to bounce back

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    A year after earthquake

    list_earthquakeKATHMANDU, April 19: Last year’s earthquakes, aftershocks and quake-induced landslides damaged up to 15 hydropower plants, reducing power generation for the national grid by 120.22 MW. This is 15 percent of the total installed capacity at the 49 power plants in the country.

    All the damaged projects except one belong to independent power producers (IPPs).

    Eight of the projects, including the 45 MW Upper Bhotekoshi Hydropower,  have not yet been restored  even a year later and the energy loss amounts to millions of rupees in total. Loss of energy generation at Upper Bhotekoshi alone has amounted to 236 GWh, or US $ 30 million in monetary terms. Project officials say it might take another six months for the restoration work to be completed. 

    Earthquake-induced flashfloods and landslides during last monsoon further damaged some already damaged projects as w ell as some new ones. The energy crisis led to power outage of up to 14 hours per day.
    Narendra Prajapati, general manager of Bhotekoshi Power Company Limited, said that repair work on the penstock pipes following the monsoon and on the powerhouse that remained submerged in water for over six months was affected by supply constraints and the fuel shortage caused by the Indian blockade. The company is the promoter of Upper Bhotekoshi. All the machinery has to be replaced and it might take another six months to bring the plant back into full operation, added Prajapati.

    “Over a tenth of the total energy generation capacity was damaged by earthquake,” added Amrit Nakarmi, a professor at the Center for Energy Studies, Institute of Engineering.

    Nakarmi added, “The government should have facilitated restoration of the hydropower plants, particularly in view of the shortage of LPG.”

    Shailendra Guragain, vice-president of Independent Power Producers’ Association Nepal, said they had sought  government help for subsidized credit in order to restore the damaged projects, but there was no response.  “We have not even gotten the price promised for our electricity,” complained Guragain.

    “I saw the IPPs running from pillar to post to get diesel for carrying out repair work during the Indian blockade, but the government paid them no heed,” added Nakarmi.

    “Nepal can at least replace diesel and LPG by generating enough electricity and the savings would be worth Rs 50 billion per annum, or nearly 40 percent of the amount the country spends on import of petroleum products,”  Nakarmi further said.

    After relations with India improved, Nepal added 80 MW in power imports from India to make for a  total of 315 MW. India did not cut off the electricity supply to Nepal during its blockade.

    The effects of the earthquake and Indian blockade are still visible at several power plants that are under construction, including Upper Tamakoshi. This 456 MW project has had to revise its power generation plans. Upper Tamakoshi would be the largest to connect to the national grid.

    Pressed by the energy crisis caused by the Indian blockade and the mounting demand for electricity, the government in February announced an energy development plan to end loadshedding fully in two years and develop 10,000 MW of electricity in 10 years.

    Source : Republica