Sustainable development: Banking on an energy mix


    energy_mixIt is shocking to learn that there are people who pay more than Rs. 200 per month to light a 5W CFL lamp powered from the community generators during load shedding hours in Kathmandu. The cost of electricity in such schemes is Rs. 222 per unit which is highly incomparable to Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) tariff of Rs. 12.

    Energy is a key development indicator that provides vital inputs for survival and economic development of the nation. The electric power consumption (kWh per capita) in Nepal is 161.69, standing 174th among the power consuming countries in the world.

    In spite of the 43,000MW hydro potential that is techno-economically feasible, Nepal has not been able to harness this natural resource due to various factors. The government of Nepal (GoN) had declared National Electricity Crisis in 2008 and announced 38-point measures to address the problem forming two high-level taskforces to chart out plans for generating 10,000 MW hydropower in 10 years and 25,000 MW hydropower in 20 years. According to the data reported by NEA, only 40 per cent of the population has access to electricity with 750MW of current production in the rainy season, while the demand is 1200MW, growing at 11per cent per annum. There was 2 hours per day of load shedding in 2005, which reached 18 hours per day in 2009. We need to commission about 80MW of additional installed capacity every year to meet the growing demand.

    The research carried out by Nepal Industrial Association (NIA) shows that, because of severe load shedding, about 650MW of electricity is being generated by diesel generators (DG) in Nepal. About NRs 12 billion has been invested for the procurement of DG and double that has been invested for fuel and operation and management costs. It is a huge amount which could have been saved had the hydro-projects been commissioned to the extent required.

    Enough sunlight falls on the earth’s surface every hour to meet the world energy demand for an entire year. According to the Solar and Wind Energy Resource Assessment (SWERA), in 2008, the estimated commercial potential of wind power was 3000MW and about 2,100 MW of electricity can be harnessed through solar power. In spite of large potential, around 12 per cent of the rural population receive electricity through alternative energy sources like micro-hydro-plant and solar home system in Nepal. It is a free and environmentally sustainable energy source that can be tapped to provide relief to those who have been affected by load-shedding.

    Fortunately, Nepal is blessed with more than 300 days of sunshine averaging 4.7kWh of solar energy per square meter of land area. Given such conditions, every individual residing in Nepal should embrace long-term sustainable practices by harnessing the power from the sun to mitigate the ever-increasing energy crisis. Although, the share of alternative energy sources is still small, it has increased by more than 50% since 2005. This is due to the fact that the efficiency of renewable energy system is increasing and price decaying whereas fossil fuels generally get more expensive.

    With the mixing of alternative energy with traditional energy, the cost of electricity is estimated to be NRs 12.86 per unit, which is 1.6 times less than the cost from traditional source of energy alone..

    Because of the intermittent nature of solar and wind energy, we need to go for the mixing of alternative energy with source of traditional energy. If so, we don’t need to run the DG sets when there is load-shedding but sufficient sunshine, especially for corporate offices that need energy only during the day time. Good energy mix is important for the well-being of the society and when successful and sustainable, it can make wonders in terms of additional progress and prosperity. Every institution and business houses should go for the strategic plan of energy mix with NEA grid, solar electricity and DG set. In this technique, consumer load will draw the energy considering first priority from solar energy and deficit energy can be drawn from NEA grid, and in worse cases the supply can be made from DG sets, all integrated by automatic switching system. This system helps to increase the business profits reducing the running cost of DG sets as we need to run the DG sets mostly during the remaining 65 days a year.

    In conclusion, many business offices and institutions should conduct energy audits to help them make the switch to more energy efficient products and need to move a step forward to mix the alternative energy with traditional energy for the sustainable development of society and nation.

    Sustainable energy mix is very important for mankind, as per unit cost of electricity from energy mix technology is about half as that of traditional source of energy alone. Also, any business without the source of alternative energy is a risky business.

    In addition, a gradual reduction in subsidies for conventional fossil fuels should be used to provide new subsidies for more sustainable forms of energy or more energy efficient technologies.

    Raut is MD, Peaksun Engineering Solutions Pvt. Ltd.