By Purna N. Ranjitkar
The President, Prime Minister, Ministers, Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation, Nepal Electricity Authority and other agencies are happily sharing that Nepal has been able to generate 2,038 MW of electricity these days. That is more than enough for the present demand situation. The electricity should be consumed in the country rather than exporting to neighbouring countries, they are saying. Electricity for industries, electric transportation and electricity for domestic cooking have been the potential sectors to consume electricity in the country, so the leaders and authorities are stressing need of promotion of electricity uses in these sectors. In this context, facilities and lowering of tariff also have been widely talked and worked out for implementation as well. The Minister for Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation, on an occasion, said that the government is consulting on tax on importing of electric vehicles to make free, which may take place soon. Likewise, subsidy will be provisioned for the rapid promotion of electric induction cooktops.
In the past, leaders and authorities were saying that whatever the amount of electricity generated in Nepal would be consumed in the country and there was enough possibility to export as well. Then, they had asked private sector to invest more to generate more electricity.
Recently, Nepal Electricity Authority has informed that Nepal is now exporting 39 MW of electricity to India. That is of course a small amount as there is a big gap between demand and generation of electricity in the country as generation in the wet season is 2,038 MW and demand in the peak hour is 1,280 as of November 04. Thus, the spoil over in the night hours is more than 400 MW. However, the recorded demand on one fine day was a little more than 1,600 MW.
On the other hand, industrialists and business community are arguing that electricity should be cheaper for industries, somehow similar to the price Nepal is getting from exports to India. That will generate employment opportunities and support economic upliftment. Reduce import of goods will be one other benefit.
Moreover, electricity should be consumed by industries in commercial works in the day time and in the night time priority should go for charging batteries of electric vehicles (private vehicles at residences and public vehicles including electric buses at their garages).
In the current scenario, the main electricity consuming factors are very weak. Industrialists and business community is waiting for a conducive climate where not only energy but government policy, financial policy and employment policy and well protection of business systems. Therefore, energy advocacy must include other important aspects to support increase industries. Similarly, electric transportation should the focus of government priority which can consume sizable amount of electricity in the night hours. For that the government should be open with private sector to collaborate by providing financial and technical supports and facilitations. Remarkably, the Pollution Control Fund collected on import of each and every litre of petrol and diesel should be utilised to extend technical and financial support to public transport entrepreneurs. However, modalities for support may be variable as per requirement of the entrepreneurs.
This also to keep in mind that climate change has caused extensive damaged to Nepal. It is globally realised that burning of fossil fuel is one of the major cause of climate change effects. That is one of the factors that Nepal has to prioritise renewable energy reducing use of fossil fuel.
Moreover, Nepal has been taking the agenda such as Sustainable Development Goals, Sustainable Energy for All, Nationally Determined Commitments and so on. Similarly, Nepal has expressed commitments on reducing fossil fuel and will be successful to get Net Zero Emission by 2045.
Thus, Nepal has now opportunities and challenges for maximum use of renewable energy technologies which will bring better results in lowering air pollution, public health, growth of industries, growth of employment, reduce importing fossil fuel to narrow the gap in the trade deficit and so on.
This is also important to note that electricity generation in the wet season and dry season have wider difference in Nepal. Most of the hydropower projects are Run-Off-the River (ROR) type. They generate electricity as per that water flowing in the river. So they decrease electricity generation in the dry season. The lowest level generally experienced as 30% of installed capacity against 100% in the wet seasons. This is also to note that almost all ROR type hydropower plants are designed at Q40. That means the ROR plants generate electricity at their best for 40% of the days in a year. On other days water flowing in the rivers decrease gradually.
Some hydropower plants have facility to store water for hours to utilised stored water to generate electricity in peak hour are Peak Run-Off- the River (PROR). The exact capacity of such plants in existence is not available. So their contribution is simply taken for consideration as they are capable to generate good amount of electricity at peak hour to support peak hour demand.
Kulekhani is the only storage type hydropower plant in Nepal which has 3 cascading electricity generation units they altogether can generate 104 MW (60 + 30 + 14 MW) of electricity to supplement in the peak hour.
The most talked storage type hydropower project is Budhi Gandaki will be able to generate 1,200 MW of electricity. But, the activities show that the project will not turn to realty in near future. Similarly despite of many talks and thoughts, no other storage type or pump storage type hydropower will be constructed in near future to support the dry season and peak hour demand.
The electricity demand is not only varies season wise but also that ups and downs in hour by hour in a day’s 24 hours graph. The morning time sees lesser demand than day time, and evening hours are the peak demand hours while night hours see a little demand. The influencing factor is electricity consumption in the morning for domestic cooking is around one 2 hours while it extents around 3 hours in the evening. In the day time few industries, commercial and official works are the electricity consuming factors. Moreover, it is not a simple task for experts to make less variation in all hours. Or, have to be able to generate electricity according to demand, or manage demand as per generation. However, managing demand and supply is the biggest challenge for the authorities.