Power it up



    Nepal is a water-rich Himalayan country whose economic growth is possible only through proper utilization of its water and water product in the form of electricity. However, we also have to keep in mind that climate change will have an enormous effect on the existing hydropower resources. We need to exploit our feasible potential before the rivers start shrinking. Environmentalists have already offered their dire predictions. The consequence of climate change will be felt most acutely on infrastructure development of developing countries like Nepal, whereas developed countries have already used up a significant amount of their reserves of natural resources.


    Projections that this winter may bring invite power cuts as long as 21 hours a day has baffled everyone. The prime minister was also perhaps concerned and immediately directed authorities to limit it up to 10 hours. It invited various comments from the media, civil society and technocratic circles, but it is hard to believe that a prime minister, who is an engineer, has not understood how difficult it is to add even one MW of power to the system and that, too, in a period of few months.

    Last fiscal year, Nepal Electricity Authority’s (NEA) had an installed capacity of about 719 MW and the peak demand reached 1026.65 MW in January. The huge demand-supply gap hit the nation, which bore the brunt through the sharp claws of load-shedding. If everything goes as planned, the rainy season of the year 2016 will see an energy surplus in the country with power up to 1,600 MW available for an off-peak demand of 800 MW. Estimates have shown that the winter of the year will still undergo some nominal power cuts.

    The low Q-factor such as Q40 run-of-river projects will further add to the seasonal surplus thereafter, causing the wastage of our capital investment if left unused or untraded. In that sense, wastage of water is better than the wastage of its energy. As such, we must work out meticulous plans and strategies to enhance energy consumption through all possible means, including the sale of the remaining energy in the neighboring countries’ power-deficit markets to cope with the domestic surplus scenario anticipated after a few years.


    About 86 percent of our population lives in rural areas, but electrification levels there are dismal. Lack of electricity has insulated the villages from economic activities as well. According to a survey conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics in 2008, rural areas have lower access to electricity than urban areas, 49 percent and 93 percent respectively. We can improve the quality of life of the rural population by extending reliable electricity services to them. It will help create a positive and conducive social atmosphere which will lead to peaceful transformation of the country.

    We should not forget that manpower is the most important resource to increase the country’s productivity. Currently, there are only two broad trends among our youth—either going to foreign countries for jobs or being diverted to unethical activities. Rural electrification is expected to culminate in change of existing trend and expanded domestic energy market will increase the consumption of electricity.

    The government should focus on working out effective plans for rural electrification. The current style of working in this sector is unscientific and politics-driven. In this context, veering off the conventional track is of utmost importance to electrify our villages where 33 percent of households still depend upon kerosene for lighting. It can be done through comprehensive and integrated planning and budgeting and also by deciding on some dynamic modalities to work with. A separate government entity like a rural electrification board or company should be assigned the job of rural electrification.

    Also, there are well-tested and successful co-operative models to boost this sector. It also helps to ensure the common people’s participation in the governance of electricity services in their localities. Bangladesh has a lot of experience in this area. There are Nepali examples like South Lalitpur Rural Electric Co-operative, which can be imitated with suitable ameliorations or modifications. Prioritization of electrification will certainly be good news for about 44 percent of Nepali households who, despite being the citizens of a hydro-affluent country, are living in the dark.


    Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, inaugurating a hydropower summit in Kathmandu back in March, offered a fresh definition of new Nepal, when he said equated new Nepal with a sum total of democracy and hydropower. The country needs to develop its hydropower various energy-intensive industries so that the economy can get a lift. According to a World Bank Report, 2010, Nepal’s per capita electricity consumption was just 90.95 units in the year 2009, which is a prima facie evidence of our bleak economy, stagnant development and crushing poverty. Per capita electricity consumption is considered a strong indicator of a country’s development and prosperity, which in turn will call for industrialization of the society. Otherwise, we cannot benefit from the expected surplus energy after 2016.


    Nepal has a huge potential for developing electric vehicles such as trolley buses, electric cars and electric metro trains once we generate sufficient electricity. It will be environment-friendly and our heavy dependence on foreign countries for petroleum, a major cause of our trade deficit, will diminish as well. The time is ripe and our policymakers should start preparing the roadmap for replacing fuel-based transport for electricity based ones.
    Besides, we can also increase the utilization of electricity for cooking, by replacing LPG. Having fulfilled the domestic demand, we will have to concentrate on power export to neighboring countries, mainly India.

    The author is an electrical engineer


    Source : Republica