Greener pastures

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    The government needs clear policies to harness alternative sources of energy

    KATHMANDU, OCT 31 –

    In the last few years, promoting alternative energy has been a government agenda. Besides hydropower, which has failed to generate sufficient investment, Nepal has a lot of potential for clean energy. For various reasons, hydropower has not been able to cater to the population’s energy needs. Today, more than 33 percent of Nepalis has no access to electricity and 80 percent are fully dependent on traditional energy sources like fossil fuels, biomass and firewood. That is why it is essential to not only invest in hydroelectricity but also in alternative sources. Realising the diverse needs of the population, the government agency responsible for promoting alternative energy, the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC), under the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology, has invested approximately 50 million Euros (Rs 5.55 billion) to promote alternative energy like wind, solar and biogas. Though AEPC has been able to draw support from local communities, government and donors, most of the good work has been fragmented, in the lack of close coordination and coherent policies and programmes that could encourage investments. No wonder the energy needs of the population remain unrealised.

    More than 15 percent of the population, mostly living in hill and mountain districts, fulfils its energy needs from various clean sources. Alternative energy is cost-efficient in these areas given the difficult terrain and sparse population that makes extending the national grid to these areas unviable. Fortunately, various private sector actors have stepped in, mainly in solar power. However, inconsistent policies on subsidies given to the import of necessary equipment have meant that the private sector has not been able to bridge the gap between supply and demand. Furthermore, various programmes such as the distribution of solar lamps, panels and other accessories are not well-monitored. Successive governments have consistently brought out plans for rural electrification, such as the ‘Ujyalo Karnali’ and ‘Ujyalo Rukum.’ How effective these plans have been is unclear. In Karnali, for example, there are serious allegations of corruption, which include delays and the supply of poor quality equipment. There are also reports that local communities often resell the subsidised equipment that they receive for free.

    The lack of political will to develop alternative, clean energy is evident everywhere, starting with Singha Durbar. It has been almost two years since the government announced powering Singha Durbar solely with solar energy. Despite the fact that there is a lot of potential, along with an urgent need to provide energy to the populace, the government has done little to harness alternative sources. Coming up with strong regulations and monitoring mechanisms, as well as creating a favourable investment environment for both the private and public sector, will go a long way in leading Nepal towards a green—and sustainable—future.

    Source : The Kathmandu Post