Ministry of Energy misses own deadline to declare ‘energy crisis’

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    Officials clueless what the next date could be

    KATHMANDU, Jan 15: The government in its white paper had floated a plan to declare a fresh ‘energy crisis’ but the deadline it set to do so has come on gone, indicating this too will not be translated into reality.

    The Ministry of Energy came up with a to-do action plan along with ‘energy crisis’ declaration with January 14, 2016, as the deadline, in its Energy Development Work Plan-2072 in line with a white paper issued on November 24, 2015.

    MoE has not only missed its deadline to declare crisis but officials are also clueless about the new date for making formal declaration, along with issuing a bill on ‘energy crisis’, incorporating legal provisions of reducing procedural hassles for hydropower developers and reforms in sectors related to the energy sector.

    The reforms were expected to accelerate work in hydropower projects underway and end acute power crisis at least in the next and coming years to make people more energy secure so that they no longer had to depend on cooking gas and go through acute power shortages.

    “The six thematic groups have prepared reports and the same reports will be synthesized in a ‘policy documents’ for a broader consultation for drafting the ‘energy crisis bill,” Sanjay Sharma, spokesperson of Ministry of Energy, says. But he could not give another date for ‘energy crisis’ declaration.

    However, this would not be the first energy crisis declaration. Two separate energy crises were declared when Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal were prime ministers, in 2008 and 2009 respectively, but they remained only on paper and people had said this was because the declarations had come without any preparation.

    It has been over a month and half since the white paper was issued. The Work Plan was devised immediately but officials of the Ministry of Energy remained idle until the end of December — only two weeks before the set deadline, a source at the ministry asking not to be named told Republica.

    “There is much process in the ministry but it never gives any output,” Shailendra Guragain, the vice-president of the Independent Power Producers’ Association, Nepal (IPPAN), says. He said the association members were waiting for the declaration in addition to a zero-cost management of single-door approval management for the hydropower developers from acquiring survey license to a forest clearance.

    The main procedural hassle, developers say, is a developer having to go door-to-door through seven ministries and as many as 27 government agencies wasting a productive time. Guragain also said the government should monitor projects’ financial viability as well as ensure good return for those viable by tying the power purchase rate for independent power producers with the electricity prices for consumers.

    MoE’s Sharma says ministry officials want to address the same issues as the private sector but they have to devise a law for the purpose, which will be only possible after the new ‘energy crisis’ bill, which itself needs parliament approval.

    Following the fuel crisis Nepal has faced since an Indian blockade, generating hydropower in Nepal itself as an alternative has come back into public consciousness. IPPAN then put forward its demand for declaring of an ‘energy crisis’. The government then took up the issue and declared it would do so in its November-24 document.

    Average load-shedding hours during dry months has been above 10 hours since 2007, but changing governments has done little or nothing as not a single state-run power plant has come into generation after Middle Marshyangdi in 2008 and none of them took prompt action to encourage the private sector to harness hydropower.

    Source : Republica