Power imports up 20pc as winter takes its toll

Jan 11, 2018-Electricity imports from India have surged around 20 percent in the last two weeks following a sharp drop in domestic production due to shrinking water levels in the snow-fed rivers where most hydropower projects are located.

 According to the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), energy imports from the southern neighbour have swelled to 477 MW from 400 MW in December. 

Imports rose after domestic electricity generation plunged more than 39 percent below the total installed capacity. The country’s hydropower plants are producing a combined 581 MW compared to their total capacity of 956 MW.

Hydropower projects owned by the NEA, the state-owned power utility, are generating 354 MW compared to their installed capacity of 428 MW. Likewise, privately owned plants, which have the same installed capacity, are putting out a combined 227 MW only.

As a majority of hydroelectric stations in the country are run-of-the-river types, output drops sharply during the dry season when the water flow in the rivers goes down. The only power plants with reservoirs are Kulekhani I and II. These projects generate a combined 92 MW.

Due to a sharp drop in the temperature, the water level has gone down in snow-fed rivers like the Kali Gandaki and the Marshyangdi where major hydropower projects are situated. Hydroelectricity generation at the NEA-owned 144 MW Kali Gandaki Hydropower Project, the country’s largest plant, has gone down more than 50 percent to 70 MW.

Similarly, the Marshyangdi Hydropower Project is generating only 34 MW compared to its installed capacity of 69 MW, according to Bishnu Shrestha, chief of the load dispatch centre at the state-owned power utility.

Power generation at the 70 MW Middle Marshyangdi Hydropower Project has also dropped sharply to 36 MW.

As the dry season will last another couple of months, the NEA will have a hard time keeping the country free from power cuts. Peak electricity demand currently hovers around 1,300 MW, and the NEA has expected it to increase to 1,380 MW in the next few weeks.

The NEA has said that domestic consumers will not suffer power cuts although power cuts to industrial customers might be increased. “We still have a cushion of around 20 MW that we can import from India. Also, domestic generation is not likely to go down further,” said Adhikari.

“In a worst case scenario, we might have to increase power cuts to industrial customers by a couple of hours.” Currently, factories are facing a 3-hour daily power outage.

Source: The Kathmandu Post