By Purna N. Ranjitkar
Minister for Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation PamphaBushal recently said that the Ministry will provide free electricity for household use up to 20 units a month. She informed that this provision will be implemented within a month as the scheme has already been endorsed by the Nepal Electricity Authority board. Minister Bhushalsaid that those households using up to 20 units of electricity will have to pay only the service charge which is at present Rs. 30 per month.
It is worth to note that the existing provision introduced last year allows 10 units of electricity to the poor people at free of cost. They have to pay Rs. 30 as service charge every month.
This new facility will benefit to nearly 2 million NEA consumers among 5,100,000 residential consumers.
NEA also had lodged a request to Electricity Regulatory Commission (ERC) for restructuring of tariff which will allow low price for more electricity users whereas the existing tariff structure charges more to those who consume more electricity.Obviously, high tariff to more electricity users is to control to use minimum electricity when generation of electricity was not enough. But now NEA is putting efforts for consumers to use more electricity as amount of electricity generation has been increased.
Hence, the desired effect of the facilities offered is to see growth in amount of electricity consumption in residential clientele.
Besides, NEA customers who receive NEA electricity service directly, there are nearly 550,000 consumers affiliated with Community Rural Electrification Committees (CREEs) as members. The CREES are organized under National Association of Community Electricity Users – Nepal (NAECUN).
CREES buy electricity in bulk to distribute to its members (consumers). The consumers under CREEs are not registered as NEA consumers. The CREE members who consume 20 units or below every month are not entitled to get the 20 units of electricity for free. Thus 90% of its members (nearly 500,000) facilitated through CREEs will miss the gift of the government. This has been a problem with 10 unit free electricity for poor people also.
One other condition frequently takes place with the minimum electricity using consumers that they are paying Rs. 30.00 as service charge even consuming 4 units in a month. In this scenario, a question genuinely risesif the poor people are getting electricity for free in the real sense ? And why not make the purpose more meaningful by providing fully ‘electricity for free to poor people’ whether 10 units or 20 units ?
The Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation, Electricity Regulatory Commission, Nepal Electricity Authority should reconsider it seriously to make it happen.
The Provincial Governments and Local Levels also need to consider on this matter with contributory attitude for the welfare of the poor people to get modern energy as one of the factors supportive to upgrade their socio-economic status.
Local Levels to manage over the electricity purchase in bulk, distribute and collect payment from users as CREES are doing should be an appropriate methodology to suggest address this issue. For this system to bring in to the some places for the trial purpose CREEs, NAECUN and other institutions supporting community electrification movements will join hands to share knowledge, experiences and resources.
Thus, involvement of Local Level will support the propagation of the Government for maximum use of electricity for industries, MSCIs, transportation, agriculture and residential use of electricity as clean cooking solutions. This will also turn Local Levels’ concern for Solar and mini-grids to utilise well for health, communication, health, education sectors.
The Local Levels will handle the best for providing electricity for free to real beneficiaries assuming that the Local Levels have database of social and economic status of the residents. Moreover, Local Level involvement in energy management will bring them at the place of energy independence. So as all energy needs in the rural municipalities, municipalities, sub metropolitan cities or metropolitan cities will be distributed to the users under Local Levels’ management. Similarly working jointly with private sector, Local Levels can consider generating energy by different RETs to sale to NEA by connecting to the national grid.