Mini-grids must to tackle power woes: Workshop

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    KATHMANDU, Feb 7: Promotion of mini-grid projects through public-private partnership is essential to address the power woes of Nepal, where 37 percent of the people have absolutely no access to electricity, and the Asia-Pacific, where nearly 700 million live in darkness, an international workshop on ´Scaling up mini-grids in Asia and the Pacific´ under way in the capital emphasized on its first day, Wednesday.

    Delegates from 14 countries including Uganda, Phillippines, Pakistan, Thailand, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal are participating in the two-day workshop organized jointly by the Alternative Energy Promotion Center (AEPC) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

    Speaking at the program, Secretary at the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment Keshab Prasad Bhattarai said that mini-grids are the only viable power solution in a country like Nepal in view of its challenging geographical features.

    “Nepal´s population is dispersed across a wide and difficult-to-reach terrain where it is technically and financially difficult to extent the nation grid. Mini-grids are an important solution for bringing energy to more communities in this country where 37 percent of the population has no access to electricity,” he said in his opening address.

    A mini-grid is a small electricity network that uses sources such as hydro, solar and wind to generate electricity in a town or village.

    Also speaking at the program, Priyantha Wiyajatunga, head of ADB Nepal´s Portfolio Management Unit, stated that as a scaling-up renewable energy program (SREP) pilot country, Nepal would be in the forefront of efforts to show how tackling climate change is not a trade-off between economic growth and carbon emissions. “It is a call for creative energy solutions,” he said.

    Jiwan Acharya, senior climate change specialist with the ADB, also insisted that small-scale renewable energy systems alone can help solve the country´s energy problems without adding to air pollution and carbon emissions. “But things will work only if the private sector is attracted to invest in this field,” he said.

    According to Dr Govind Raj Pokharel, executive director of AEPC, public-private partnership is a must for working in this direction. “AEPC has launched a national rural and renewable energy program from July 2012 and it has been seeking to promote renewable energy technologies with an aim to maximize its coverage,” he said.

    Pokharel further informed that enterprises are ready to develop more mini-grid projects but they need help with business planning, design and access to funds. With an aim to provide modern energy access to 100 million people by 2015, the governments of Japan, Austria, Australia, Norway, Denmark and Switzerland have been supporting a project, Energy for All, in developing nations including Nepal.

    With support from donors, AEPC has been using mini-gird systems to generate power in several villages through the National Rural and Renewable Energy Program (NRREP), which was also discussed and appreciated during the workshop.

    AEPC seeks to provide modern energy across the country by 2027.

    Source : Republica (ANJALI SUBEDI)