UK firm not serious about developing wind energy: PM Oli

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    KATHMANDU, Jan 27: Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli was taken aback Sunday by the change in the wind power price quoted by the Gorkha’s UK Ltd to Rs 14.70 per unit from Rs 6.50 per unit a month ago. The change in quoted prices and a superficial pre-feasibility study report submitted by the UK firm to the Investment Board Nepal (IBN) made the prime minister change his mind about the company. On the basis of its earlier quoted price, PM Oli had given a speech about how wind power could be generated faster than any other kind of energy. The wind power price quoted is double the current price of hydroelectricity.

    At the 21st meeting of IBN, Oli read out the pre-feasibility report submitted by the Kent-based company and he found that it was not serious. He was inclined to reject the firm’s proposal.

    The meeting, however, decided to give the firm a last chance to study and prepare a detailed project report (DPR) within three months. A press release issued after the meeting said that IBN would be studying the possibility of inviting open tender bids for generating wind power.

    The prime minister had received the Uk firm’s proposal a month ago and a cabinet meeting had mandated IBN to deal with wind power projects of above 100 MW. IBN then sought a prefeasibility study with technical and financial details. The UK firm had proposed to generate 300 MW in the first phase and 3,000 MW in three years.

    The cabinet decision drew criticism from experts and government officials, who questioned  its viability.

    The experts were of the view that hydropower remains the main source of energy for the country and said little study had been done on the wind power potential. There were also the practical difficulties of transporting wind mill turbines to the high hills along winding roads.

    Officials at IBN are also said to be aware  about the status of the firm in the United Kingdom. Though a team led by Basant Bahadur Bhujel, formerly of the British army,  has identified the company as having 10 years’ experience working in the UK in renewable energy and energy retailing, there was no website for the firm. The site of UK Company Insights says the firm was established in April 2005 but its activity description is not available. The firm has not identified who its investors are.

    IBN officials say the decision to go for open bidding was taken after finding that the UK firm was not serious enough in its prefeasibility report.
    Radhesh Panta, CEO of IBN, said that financial, technical, environmental and other details should be sought before making any further decisions on the proposal of the UK firm. They cannot decide anything in the current situation, added Panta.

    The project developers need to pay 0.2 percent of the project cost as license fee by the time the project development agreement is signed.

    Bhujel could not be contacted for comments on the pre-feasibility study and on the firm itself. Talking over the phone, Bijaya Dhalani, an aide to Bhujel, said it was too early to speak to the media about the project.

    Interestingly, Lal Krishna KC, one of the key promoters of the Kathmandu-Kulekhani-Hetauda Tunnel project, has joined Bhujel’s team. Dhalani also said KC is likely to become country director for the firm.

    Meanwhile, the ambitious tunnel project exists only on paper though the Nepal Purwadhar Bikash Company Limited (NPBCL) got its license from the Government of Nepal in May 2013 to build the tunnel highway. It has nearly failed to collect the funds to invest in the project and start the construction.

    KC declined to comment on his involvement in the UK firm proposing the wind power project and only said that  talks were on but a deal was yet to be signed. Asked why he chose to work with the UK firm, KC said there were different circumstantial reasons and both the companies would now go hand in hand.

    It is not clear what the motive is behind acquiring licenses through political influence and  then doing nothing. But officials knowledgeable about the NPBCL say that promoters intend to sell the projects fully or partially to foreign firms and companies, with an eye to attractive returns.

    Source : Republica