Storage-based projects preferable to escape power crisis

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    KATHMANDU, Sept 5:

    Kulekhani ReservoirAll political parties, policy makers and even experts are in no doubt that speedy generation of electricity is the only option to overcome the deepening load-shedding in the country.

    But, what would be the best way to end the power deficit at the earliest? Experts´ suggestions will be — ´develop storage-based hydropower with high priority.´

    On the back of slow progress in the implementation of hydropower projects, Nepal´s private sector has sought commitment from political parties to lay more focus on reservoir-based projects which can generate electricity constantly throughout the year.

    In a recent interaction with top leaders of CPN-UML, the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) handed over a set of suggestions for the party´s election manifesto, which included giving priority to hydropower development, especially storage-based projects.

    “Instead of making high-sounding promises of generating 10,000 megawatts in ten years or 20 years, let´s sincerely focus on any two storage-based projects viable to be implemented within five years,” said Suraj Vaidhya, the president of FNCCI, handing over the suggestions to Jhala Nath Khanal, chairman of CPN-UML.

    Vaidya´s emphasis on such projects reflects the urgency of such projects for the country to overcome the power crisis in a country that has been passing through lingering economic slowdown.

    Domestic industries are compelled to reduce their production by 50 percent as they are going through protracted power outages. Use of generators in the industrial firms has jacked up the cost of production which has weakened the competitive edge of Nepali goods in both domestic and international markets.

    Business people, on the occasion, renewed their request to all political parties not to disrupt operation of hydropower projects as the nation is in dire need of increased power supply.

    But to everyone´s surprise, Khanal expressed ignorance about the commitment by political party leaders, including himself, at the 47th annual general meeting of FNCCI, for not creating hurdles in smooth implementation of any hydropower projects.
    As generation of power from most of run-of-river (RoR) projects declines to its lowest level during the dry season, a handful of proposed reservoir projects are expected to support constant level of power over the year if they are implemented.

    However, government officials are themselves not confident of timely implementation of the storage-based projects.
    “We need to begin construction of storage-based projects within a couple of years to crush the deepening power shortage as they need much time for study,” Energy Secretary Bishwa Prakash Pandit said.

    Given the negligible progress in developing the storage-based projects, Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) — the state-owned power distributor — has forecast 10-12 hours of load-shedding during the winter season even though the country enjoys energy surplus during the rainy season.
    “Given this power crisis, reservoir projects can rescue us from the erratic supply volume in both dry and rainy seasons,” said NEA Director Sher Singh Bhat.

    NEA has passed up signing Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) with any ROR-type projects stating that uneven distribution — surplus in rainy season and deficit in dry season — causes losses to an already loss-making NEA.
    Though energy generation will reach 2000 MW during rainy season during summer season, dry season will see supply of 700-800 MW by 2020, Bhat said.

    At a time when business has been putting the blame on the government for the present power crisis, government officials allege that incompetence of the private sector inflicted the power generation process even though the government liberalized the power sector in early 1990s.
    “It will be immature to highly depend on the private sector only for power generation.” Keshav Dhwaj Adhikari, spokesperson for the Ministry of Energy, told Republica.

    On the back of lingering energy deficit in the country, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)-Nepal recently sorted out 10 promising storage projects out of 102 after a study commissioned by NEA.

    Those 10 projects were showcased at a recent power summit to draw the attention of potential investors.
    Deepak Rauniar, the CEO of Hydroelectricity Investment and Development Company Ltd (HIDCL), said the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and JICA-Nepal have shown interest in investing in storage projects in Nepal.

    Adhikari opined that Nepal should focus on reservoir projects while simultaneously preparing for a Power Trade Agreement (PTA) with India to sell the surplus energy during the wet season and import during the dry seasons. Nepal forwarded a concept on PTA some six months ago, however India is yet to respond.

    Hydropower developer Gyanendra Lal Pradhan acknowledges the need of storage projects to make Nepal self-sufficient in energy. “However, it´s unwise to wait for these projects which need years to be implemented. We should have developed and necessary PTA for small or RoR projects for the time-being,” added Pradhan.

    However, some six super-projects with generation capacity totaling 200 MW have been waiting for over two years for PPAs.
    The private sector wants political parties to prioritize storage projects, PTA and bilateral projects with energy development a common minimum agenda in election manifesto for upcoming elections.

    Source : Republica