Energy planning and policy Paradigm shift needed

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    The Nepal Government, recently, made public the result of National Population and Household Census 2011. The census reveals many interesting facts and figures relating to energy use. Electricity has reached to 67 per cent of the households for meeting their lighting needs. Still, 18 per cent households rely on kerosene while around seven per cent depend on solar energy for lighting. The results show that around three out of four households enjoy relatively better lighting options, not considering load-shedding and relatively low lumen available from the solar system.

    In urban areas, 94 per cent of the households have access to electricity for meeting their lighting needs and the remaining six per cent rely on sub-standard means such as kerosene, biogas, and others. Surprisingly, 70 per cent of the rural households have relatively better lighting options available and the remaining rely on sub-standard means, such as, kerosene, biogas, and others. There is still a large gap concerning the rural electrification in Nepal. In the context of the present shortage in the national power system, one can easily guess, how long it may take to cover the remaining households under electricity coverage. However, it is quite encouraging to see that around 10 per cent of the population have solar systems in their home for meeting their lighting needs.

    The census reveals a not encouraging situation in the case of energy used for cooking. Around 64 per cent households are still dependent on firewood and 10 per cent on cow dung nationwide. Among the rural households, firewood is used by 74 per cent for cooking. The households using LP gas have reached 21 per cent, which is quite significant compared to the use of electricity which is not even used by one per cent of the households for cooking. Among the LP gas users, 10 per cent are from the rural areas and the remaining from the urban areas.

    It is clearly seen from the census result that there is a heavy reliance on firewood for meeting cooking energy needs.

    Use of petroleum products in the household sector is also increasing; especially LP gas for cooking in urban areas and kerosene for lighting in rural areas. There are quite obvious reasons that electricity has made no contribution in fulfilling cooking energy needs.

    It is quite alarming to see that cow dung is still used by 10 per cent of the households and biogas is limited only to 2.4 per cent in spite of its popularity in the rural areas. Along with others, the cost factor might have hindered its wider penetration in the rural areas.

    The increased electrification rate in rural area indicates the success of community electrification programme and alternative energy options such as solar and micro-hydropower. The alternate energy sector attracted attention of the government and the development partners in the last decade. On the verge of power shortage in national system, Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) has, obviously, no incentives to expand electricity in rural areas. Establishing an institution with core focus on promoting electrification is the need of the hour.

    Globally, 1.5 billion people lack access to electricity and nearly 3 billion lack access to modern cooking energy options. Historically, electricity has been considered as one of the primary inputs for economic and social development. This prioritization of energy provision has neglected the modern energy need for cooking to a lower level of policy consideration. This is reflected not only in Nepal but globally by the fact that there are more people deprived of access to modern fuel for cooking than electricity for lighting. There is lack policy frameworks and institution to implement the programme dealing with promoting modern cooking energy options in Nepal.

    Nepal has made firm commitments to support the global initiative on Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL). It aims at mobilizing action from governments, the private sector, and civil society for the achievement of three global objectives: (i) Ensuring universal access to modern energy services, (ii) Doubling the global rate of improvements in energy efficiency, and (iii) Doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix, all to be reached by 2030.

    The Government has formed a high level national mechanism under the Chairmanship of the Vice Chair of National Planning Commission. The realization of international objectives, such as SE4ALL by 2030 will critically depend upon a concerted focus on policy convergence and the successful implementation of policy through a broad-based energy framework. The provision of technology and fuel neutral energy access, with focus on reliability/quality of energy services and equity, is necessary to achieve objective of sustainable energy for all. This can be achieved by strengthening links between the plan and policies, institution framework, funding and service delivery, etc… Otherwise, the commitment made by the government may not turn into the reality. Furthermore, Nepal should not wait till 2030 to fulfil the basic energy needs. It should be aimed to achieve visible progress when next census is conducted.

    Adhikari is an energy economist d_p_adhikari@hotmail.com

    Source : The Himalayan Times