May 24, 2022, Tuesday
Nepal 1:37:26 pm

Energy autonomy in local levels : thought for independent management

The Nepal Weekly
March 29, 2022

Following to the promulgation of the Constitution of Nepal 2015 on September 20, 2015 Nepal become Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. The constitution provisioned three levels of governance system – Federal, Provincial and Local levels.

The Provincial Governments and Local Governments are saying that they are not getting appropriate opportunity to exercise the authorities provided by the constitution and raising the voice time and again. The Local Governments argue that the centre (Federal Government) and Provincial Governments are not Local Government friendly while Provincial Governments say that Federal Government is not well to do with them. The Federal Government says that acts and regulations are under construction. Once the documents made ready to implement the delegation of authorities would be carried out without any delay.   

The local governments are said to have given extensive authorities to implement almost all aspects of socio-economic and political importance. So as they can exercise extensive authorities within the given mandate. The elections held nearly 5 years back had given the people’s representatives in various levels to carry out the governance at their respective levels. Another phase of elections for local levels have been announced to be held on 13th May, 2022.

Energy experts who have experience and vision on use of renewable energy technologies are putting voice since years on local governments to exercise energy independence with the spirit of the constitutional provisions. Thus, energy management may be termed to be a full-fledged independence to the local governments.

As a matter fact, renewable energy is energy that is collected from renewable resources, which are naturally replenished on a human timescale, such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves and geo-thermal heat. Renewable energy often provides energy in four important areas: electricity generation, air and water and water heating/ cooling, transportation, and rural (off-grid) energy services. Hydropower (including Megawatt projects to pico size), Solar PV, Solar Thermal, Bio-gas, Bio-mass are the technologies adopted in Nepal and these are needed to be promoted in the framework designed to match the federal structure of governance.

Activists and professionals engaged in appropriate use of renewable energy technologies (RETs) see that knowledge and expertise they bear should be lent to the policy makers, planners and executives at all 3 levels of governance so as the promotional movements take a smooth speed.

In this context, some pocket areas may be suggested to experiment in the first phase to learn the lapses and appropriate modalities. So as, better implementation of knowledge sharing on RETs to the rest of the local and provincial bodies later will be carried out keeping in view the lessons learned by the initial phase.

The movement, thus, should include all aspects related to RETs. Introduction, importance, purchase, installation, operation and repair and maintenance are the one part while other relates with financial management which links to government policies and provisions on subsidy, grant and credit. Likewise knowledge sharing on income generation opportunities or reducing expenses on energy and credit payback scheme are equally important to consider.

This is right time for the local governments to consider energy independence to their municipalities or rural municipalities. They can manage whole energy need (for domestic, industrial, agricultural, health, education, transportation etc.)by managing the supply side as bulk buy from Nepal Electricity Authority through normal service or community electrification system, micro-hydro or bigger hydropower plants in the location, Solar PV systems, Solar Thermal systems, Bio-gas plants, Bio-mass based products and so on.

The private sector, entrepreneurs and municipalities or rural municipalities can work jointly in investment and management where all stakeholders can get benefit in terms of money as well as social aspects as opportunities for investment and energy for every activity will be available smartly and equally. This will also be an instrument for the financial institutions to work comfortably as the stakeholders will be more reliable in the involvement of government institutions in the form of municipalities or rural municipalities and management part may be working strongly in involvement of private sector while the energy consumers will not have to do much or invest more to get access of clean energy. Thus, every aspect of the society can get desirable results. However, entrepreneurs related to micro-small-cottage industries may get the best of fruit. Likewise, women, poor, under-privileged, marginalised communities and disabled will get expectable benefits out of the energy autonomy in local levels.

For energy supply to make consistent in quality and regularity, the energy required for the peak hours and dry seasons must be well planned and systems must be ready.

Existing ROR plants decrease electricity generation to 30 per cent or below in the dry season. Similarly peak hour demands in all seasons are a challenge for the utility institution. 

Kulekhani I, II and III are the only storage hydropower plants which generate 116 MW of electricity to complement the peak hour demand while PROR hydropower plants like Kali Ganadki, Marsyangdi, Chilime and Upper Tamakoshi are not much influential to this context.

Thus, from the point of view of hydropower priority, storage type of plants is the solutions. There are a number of Proposed Storage Type Hydropower Project such as much talked Budhi Gandaki (1200 MW) and many others.

Moreover, Pumped Storage Hydropower Plants may be taken as an option, but yet to be brought into action.

Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba recently had said that the government will take seriously to construct storage type of hydropower projects. Some highly influential leaders and authorities also in the past had pledged similar commitments.

Let us assume that construction of storage type of hydropower plants whatever in number or capacity, if started right today, it will take at least 5 years to complete or may take ten years or even more. As such, a fastest solution must be picked up. Solar PV Power Plants are the appropriate answer to this question.

Nepal can do is, all 753 (some may not be able to manage land and transmission systems, so let us assume that there are 700 capable local governments) local levels have at least 1 MW of Solar PV system with a 4 MWh battery backup. Each of such system costs around 20 – 22 crore rupees presently. That will provide all energy backup in the peak hours mainly. That is useful for dry season too. NEA supply system for domestic uses, industries and transportation will also be enhanced. Moreover, that will also be a source of revenue for the local governments.

This model will create opportunities for the local governments to handle all energy needed at their territories. They buy electricity from NEA in bulk for their territories (as CREEs are doing), manage demand and smooth supply. There will be also opportunity to sale electricity to NEA connecting to the national grid.  

For the technical, managerial and financial management, the local governments may collaborate with private entrepreneurs in the PPP model as well. (PNR/The Nepal Weekly)