Energy Security and Hydropower Development in Nepal

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Ranju Pandey 

Defining energy security

The IEA defines energy security as “the uninterrupted availability of energy sources at an affordable price”. Access to (relatively) cheap energy has become essential to the functioning of modern economies as energy is the backbone of the economic development. Similarly, the ability of a nation to secure sufficient, affordable and consistent energy supplies for its domestic, industrial, transport and military requirements is termed as Energy Security. The ‘four A’s of energy security are (availability, accessibility, affordability, and acceptability).If this four A’s are meet than the country is said to have energy security.

According to the IEA report, Energy security is categories into long-term energy and short term energy security. Long-term energy security is mainly concern with timely investments to supply energy. It is linked and line with economic developments and sustainable environmental needs and goals. Whereas, short-term energy security focuses on the ability of the energy system to react promptly to sudden changes within the supply-demand balance.

Therefore, the objective of energy security should be to ensure an uninterrupted and smooth supply of energy that is easily available, cost-effective and efficient also. However, the uneven distribution of energy supplies  led to significant vulnerabilities and it means that current and future energy demands is/will be met irrespective of economic or political instability. Furthermore, energy security is also associated between national security and the availability of natural resources for energy consumption.  In energy security, security of energy supply is utmost importance. Lack of energy security is always linked to the negative economic development and its negative social impacts.

During 19’s and 20th era energy security was associated with oil supply, while oil supply remains a key issue. Nevertheless the increasing complexity of energy systems and its important requires systematic and rigorous understanding of a wider range of vulnerabilities. Thus at present, analysis of oil supply security alone is no longer sufficient for understanding a country’s energy security situation as a whole. Energy demand covers a number of different forms of energy, for e.g. oil for transport, gas for domestic heating and cooking, electricity for multiple uses. Therefore, an energy-secure country/state means having available access to a variety of energy sources. Similarly, the concept of Energy Security is paired with that of Energy Dependency: a measure that calculates the proportion of total energy consumption that is dependent upon imported energy. The data shows that countries with a low Energy Dependency with others countries are more likely to enjoy Energy Security. Therefore, Energy security can be achieved by ensuring a sustainable energy supply, promoting clean and efficient use of energy, establishing efficient market mechanisms and promoting cross border transactions.

Impacts of energy insecurity

Energy insecurity is the opposite of the term explained above. There are several impacts of this, some of which are linked with each other’s. Following are some of the major impacts of energy insecurity

  • Exploitation of difficult and environmentally-sensitive areas – The desire for energy is greater than the desire for environmental protection. So, in order to find new sources of energy. Environmentally-sensitive areas (like National Parks) are utilised for energy supplies that results in putting the fragile ecosystems at risk.
  • Economic and environmental costs – Since, imported fuel is expensive since exporting countries set the prices for fuel. Mining for the raw materials for energy can also cause environmental problems with loss of habitats, noise and visual pollution lead to deteriorate the economic and environment of the country and make it more vulnerable.
  • Food production –Similarly, exploiting energy resources often uses valuable farmland. For e.g. the growth of biofuel market also led to crops being grown as a fuel, rather than as food. This result in food shortages and push food prices up as supply is lower than demand.
  • Industrial output – manufacturing relies on energy. When energy supply is in deficient, it costs more to buy. This makes manufacturing products more expensive. Countries that experience energy insecurity usually have a lower and expensive industrial output.
  • Conflict – energy insecurity cause conflict and sometimes war too when countries compete to obtain energy supplies.

Important of Renewable Energy for Energy Security

Foreign oil supplies are vulnerable to unnatural disruptions from in-state conflict, exporters’ interests, and non-state actors targeting the supply and transportation of oil resources. The political and economic instability caused by war or other factors such as strike action  also prevent the proper functioning of the energy industry in a supplier country. Terrorist attacks targeting oil facilities, pipelines, tankers, refineries, and oil fields are so common they are referred to as “industry risks”. No doubt that, infrastructure for producing the resource is extremely vulnerable to sabotage. Furthermore, new threats to energy security have emerged in the form of the increased world competition for energy resources due to the increased pace of industrialization in countries such as India and China, as well as due to the increasing consequences of climate change.

Hence, it is clear that there are many different threats to energy security, for instance political turmoil in rich oil producing countries, the rise of new economic giants (China and India that present heavy competition over energy sources), natural disasters and accidents, etc. Therefore, it is very urges for each country to think about its future energy security because this is one of the main prerequisites for the future economic growth. Since, global economy is traditionally based on fossil fuels (oil, coal and natural gas), and the fossil fuels are continuously degrading are very much vulnerable to the political and economic situation.  This fact leads to that the adequate supply of fossil fuels cannot guarantee future energy security as we are listening different reports about the world running out of oil.

Therefore, to be cautious for this type of threats, the renewable energies come to play the vital role. Rapid deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency, and technological diversification of energy sources, would result in significant energy security and economic benefits. Since, renewable resources exist over wide geographical areas, in contrast to other energy sources, which are concentrated in a limited number of countries only.

The role of renewable energy in improving energy security is not to be overlooked because more renewable energy coming from domestic renewable energy sources means less need for fossil fuels and expensive foreign fuel import. Going for more domestic energy resources instead of relying on expensive foreign fuel import is very positive thing for future energy security.
In addition to that, the bigger percentage of renewable energy sources in country’s energy portfolio also means improved energy independence which is very much link with the improvement of the energy security. This has resulted in the growth of domestic renewable energy resources but also in different measures aimed to improve energy efficiency and energy conservation. Similarly, many powerful countries are looking for long-term solutions to increase energy security by reducing dependence on foreign oil import and focusing on the renewable energies.

Examples from different Countries trying to achieve energy security through a range of strategies:

Energy plays key role in the national security of any given country because without energy there’s no economy, and without economy there’s no progress of society. Therefore various countries adopts range of strategies to achieve energy security. Few of them are explained below

Exploiting own resources to achieve as close to full self-sufficiency as possible.

Norway, with a population of just over 5 million people, meet 96% of its energy needs by exploiting its HEP resources and offshore oil and gas fields. In fact, it has a surplus of energy that it exports to neighboring countries, such as a long-distance undersea gas pipeline to the UK.

Supplementing own energy resources with imports from reliable and consistent supplier nations

The USA and Canada form the largest integrated energy network in the world with Canada being a net exporter of gas and oil to the USA, a net importer of coal from the USA, and both countries co-supply each other with electricity in different regions.

Importing energy from a wide range of suppliers.

If one energy producer falls out of favor due to price, supply or political factors, custom can be switched to alternative sources relatively simply. Japan, with relatively few energy resources of its own, imports Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) from more than five countries ranging from Indonesia (51%) to the USA (3%).

Switching supply so there is less dependency on imports.

For example the USA has significantly reduced oil and gas imports from the Middle East and South America in the last 20 years by exploiting its own deep onshore shale gas through a controversial process known as hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’.

Reducing domestic demand for energy.

Increasing insulation of homes, encouraging cycle use rather than cars, promoting the electrical vehicles (reduce the use of fossil fuels) and subsidizing solar panels for house and business roofs can assist attempts to reduce the need to rely on other countries for energy supplies.

Energy Security link with hydropower Development in Nepal in the context of Nepal

Introduction

Nepal is the developing country. It is the landlocked country surrounded by India in three side and China in North. It has been no doubt that the reliable, safe electricity and energy security is very important and essential to boom the local economy and ultimately the national economy and to enhance the livelihood. In Nepal around 23% of the total population doesn’t have access to electricity and the one who have access to electricity don’t have reliable and safe regular electricity.

Since, energy security is all about protection of a nation against any possible threats caused by energy insecurity at present and in the future. To understand energy security, we need to analyse the possible threats that may arise in national energy systems and beware and prepare for the threats.

Nepal’s energy threats stem from two causes. The first relates to climate change. The threats to Climate change may change energy systems and reduce or interrupt the energy supply. The second relates to possibility of high costs of fossil fuels and a subsequent supply constraint, especially when it comes to petroleum products that has to be import from the neighbouring countries.

Hydropower for Energy Security

Nepal can replicate like Norway, exploiting our own resources to achieve as close to fulfill our energy need. Similarly Switching supply like USA who has significantly reduce oil and gas imports from so there is less dependency on imports from the Middle East and South America  as mentioned above  by exploiting the  country high hydropower potentiality , Solar energy. With the 300 days / year sunlight for almost 8 hours a day make the country one of the high potential of the solar energy. Similarly, more than 6000 rivers and the steep territory make the country high potential of hydropower in the country. Unfortunately, Nepal’s energy supply is highly reliant on ROR hydropower for electricity generation, and biomass for meeting cooking energy demands, even though, there are different types of production methods in hydropower sector. Nepal has mostly relied on run-of-the river (ROR) plants. Since it is very danger to rely on only a few energy sources. This is why energy sources should be diversified. Therefore, there should be a proper mix of reservoir storage, peaking ROR, and ROR plants; and small mini/micro-hydropower plants. Furthermore, the storage plant should also comprise pumped storage, which can contribute remarkably towards energy security. Similarly, contribution from solar and wind energy is negligible in the total energy supply. Solar resources is booming and is the potential source for the future because of its declining price trend in the world market. Nepal also needs to start strategic moves to harness its wind power potential. In addition to that, country is surrounded by the big power house like China and India create huge possibility of the regional market for the electricity.

After the long period of civil war and political instability in the country, we now have the stable political situation where the government is giving priority to economic development and construction of the infrastructure (e.g., National Grid extension, development of the big hydropower project, roads, railway track etc.) and riveting for the economic growth of the Nation. Therefore, it is the high time for Nepal to broaden its vision to include energy security provisions in its development process. Nepal should immediately adopt two strategies.

The first involves diversifying the energy supply through the energy mix and planned in this line for the construction of the sustainable infrastructure.

Similarly, country is in risk of using fossil fuels for cooking and transportation and should not rely on this for supplying energy. Therefore, fossil fuels should be replaced by using clean energy. Hence, this is only possible with the massive development of the hydropower plants i.e. all type like storage, peaking ROR, ROR plants, small mini/micro-hydropower plants and the storage plant should also comprise pumped storage for the generation of electricity. The clean energy generated can be used in cooking and in transport sector too. Further development of the hydro plants is also important for the energy security of the country.

Therefore, an efficient market mechanism is necessary so that the price of electricity should reflect the marginal cost of supply. Moreover, the government should make a judicious provision of subsidies and taxes depending on external benefits and costs associated with the production and use of electricity from the hydropower plants. Hence, there should be efficient business models and priority to attract funds from the banking and private sector in infrastructure development, operation and management of the power plants.

Ranju Pandey
Ms. Pandey is an Electrical Engineer and she is the Manager of Nepal Electricity Authority.Can reach her at ranjupandey332@gmail.com

References

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