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Getting rid of…

Published in The Nepal Weekly on December/29/2015

Getting rid of energy crisis – awareness drive is essential

Nepal is a country endowed with high potential for renewable energy resources like hydropower, wind, biomass etc. The country has abundant potential to generate electricity from flowing rivers. The hydroelectric potential has been estimated to be 83,000 MW. However, 42,000 MW are considered to be technically and economically feasible. Similarly, Nepal also has huge potential for solar energy. The country is located at favourable latitude that receives ample amounts of solar radiation. From solar energy alone, around 2,920 GWh of energy per year can be harnessed with utilising 0.01% of the total land area of Nepal.

Biomass and wind power are other renewable energy sources abundantly available in the country. This has been said that the sustainable supply of fuel wood from reachable area of all land resources is around 12 million tons. Likewise, total production of animal dung is about 15 million tons. Experts say that 1,100,000 unit of domestic biogas plants can be installed in the country where as 350,000 plant have been installed so far.

The hydroelectricity generation in the country is yet to be sufficient for domestic use. The country which started generation of 500 kW of hydroelectricity in 1911 has not been able to generate hydropower to meet the domestic demand.

The country has yet to do a lot to fully utilise the renewable energy to generate for domestic and industrial uses. Presently, around nearly 15 % of population is electrified by alternative energy sources like micro hydro plant and solar home system. Around one million households are using clean energy solutions like improved cook stoves, biogas etc. for cooking. Thus, the share of alternative energy sources is still small in volume despite the tireless efforts of public and private sector with support of external development partners.

For promotion of renewable energy Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC), the national focal government organization for promoting renewable and alternative energy technologies has been in action since November, 1996. The centre is performing as an intermediary institution between the operational level i.e. NGOs/private promoters of renewable energy and the policy decision levels in relevant ministries. AEPC’s activities include renewable energy policy formulation, planning and facilitating the implementation of the policies/plans, standardization, quality control and monitoring. Since establishment AEPC’s main focus is has been to maximize the service delivery and service delivery efficiency in the use of renewable energy resources and technologies in the rural areas and to provide opportunity to low-income rural households to use RETs. AEPC is paying attention in load shedding in urban areas but even remote places of Nepal are electrified by micro-hydro plants and solar PV systems.

Alternative energy or renewable energy is only one viable mean in Nepal to increase access of energy to its population specially the people of hills and mountains. As the country has diversified land structure from plain to high Himalayas and also settlement pattern is scattered and sparse. National grid extension in some places is not economically feasible. Large hydro projects need a huge investment and all the petroleum products consumed in Nepal are imported from India or overseas in the refined form for direct consumption which is causing the heavy economic burden to the country.

The high potentiality of the renewable energy resources available in the country is the most appropriate option for Nepal. It also helps to reduce the dependency on the traditional biomass energy resources and fossil fuels and to manage the energy crisis in the country. This ultimately helps to minimise the degradation of the environment.

Initial investment cost of alternative energy technologies are expensive compared to the other traditional sources of energy. It is not to agree with the view that the alternative energy is expensive comparative to the other traditional sources. In the long-run alternative energy is mostly cheaper than the traditional sources because alternative source is almost free but one has to pay always for traditional source. As such, consumer friendly financial mechanism should be developed.

As micro hydro has been popular in hills and mountain districts and remote areas where some 3300 micro hydro plants have been installed so far and producing around 40 MW of power for the people who would not get electricity soon. Likewise, solar home systems and solar institutional systems also have substantially aided power to the people of same category. As said above 350,000 domestic biogas plants also have been installed. Some wind mill and solar+wind hybrid plants are under experiment to explore their best of us.

There is no doubt regarding the fact that solar energy based technologies such as Solar Photovoltaic or Solar Thermal systems are the best substitutes. Right now, in the urban sector, individual households opting for small scale Solar PV solutions for home-use. They are looking for better alternatives by putting sizable solar pv to get rid of the frequent electricity load shedding and shortage of fossil fuels.   Even the institutions like banks, corporate offices, hospitals have adopted larger size system to meet their immediate energy needs. Besides Solar PV which generates direct electricity; Solar Thermal systems also play a crucial role in minimizing use of electricity from national grid as well as reduce dependency on imported petroleum products.

The bankers are offering loans at very low rate of interest for the consumers who like to put big solar pvs in the urban areas. The government is offering subsidy for installations through AEPC to the users.

Development partners are extending their support in promoting alternative energy in Nepal. AEPC has been implementing a five year National Rural and Renewable Energy Program (NRREP) from mid July 2012 to mid July 2017. The Government is working with the own source and the supports from external supporters in the NRREP as the single framework programme. Danish government, Norway government, GIZ, SNV, ADB, WB, EU, UNDP, KfW are the collaborative partners in the AEPC’s NRREP.

The Energy Week has been an event organised every year with aim to create awareness on renewable energy sources, technologies and accessibility to commoners for wider use of renewable energy, and to showcase the hardware and software under a roof where visitors explore renewable energy as viable solution to minimizing present energy crisis. In addition, the event aims to attract private sector investment in renewable energy sector and sensitize policy makers for improvements in renewable energy related policies to create enabling environment.

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