It’s akin to carrying coal to Jharia or Talcher: Nepal, with 6,000 running streams and huge hydroelectric potential, is to step up its power purchase from India. Reports say that the Nepal Electricity Authority is to increase its power purchase from NTPC Vidyut Vyapar Nigam (NVVN) to 500 MW. The way forward, surely, is to set up a series of small hydropower projects so as to rapidly augment Nepal’s installed capacity, and export the surplus power across the border to India. It would purposefully boost bilateral trade, and also provide solid baseload renewable energy at an economical price to India.
Neighbouring Bhutan already exports about 1,000 MW to India, and there are plans afoot to increase the power exchange manifold. Nepal’s hydel potential is estimated at over 40,000 MW, and the way ahead is to seek funding on transparent attractive terms from multilateral agencies with a proven track record, for a series of small, run-of-the-river projects and attendant evacuation capacity in Nepal. If New Delhi and Kathmandu could muster the will to act, the result would be mutually beneficial trade. India needs to move fast and leverage geography and historic ties to gainfully augment hydel power purchase from the Himalayan nation.
The confidence and experience gained from a series of environmentally benign small hydel projects would be very helpful in the planning and implementation of larger projects like those across the Mahakali. The K P Oli government has decided to hand over construction of the 1,200 MW Budhi Gandaki Hydropower Project to China’s Gezhouba Group, but it would make perfect sense for an entity like NVVN to procure the power. Nepal and India are best suited to rev up cross-border power exchange. New Delhi should take the initiative.