Karnali Province is home to 1.75 million of population which, a couple of years ago, is said that 72 percent of the people did not have access to electricity. The situation has slightly changed with the construction of some micro hydropower plants and solar PV systems. As of 2 years back, 67 percent Karnalipeople were not accessed to electricity. However, Last year around March, it is said that nearly 45 percent of households have been accessed to power supplied by the national grid. Moreover, in August the same year, Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) stated that electricity access has been provided to 56.79% households.
NEA is supplying electricity to Surkhet, Dailekh, Salyan, Rukum West, Jajarkot, Kalikot and Jumladistricts of Karnali Province through the national grid while Humla, Mugu and Dolpa through micro hydropower plants. It is said that national grid has not yet reached to Humla, Mugu and Dolpa. The government has a programme to electrify through Solarand micro hydroto the districts where the national transmission line cannot be reached.Alternative Energy Promotion Centrehas been taken as a responsible government agency for this job to accomplish.
Hence, it is to understand that around 40 per cent or nearly half Karnali population are still not accessed with electricity facility. Thus,around 16,000 families will have to be accessed to electricity within 2 years to come, if the commitments not happened to fail yet again.
Interestingly, the Government authorities, lead figures in NEA and other responsible institutions are repeatedly say that 100 per cent of population of the country will be provided with electricitywithin a certain time frame. In 2010 AD, the Government said that all households would have electricity connected within 5 years. Similarly, time and again, they are saying that all households would have been accessed to electricity servicewithin 2 years. Their say is still continued and possibly go for more years to come, die hard campaigners comment.
It is to recall that Rs 6.4 billion is budgeted for electrification in Karnali in the Financial Year 2078/79. The contracting process for electrification has started with concessional loans received from Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and European Investment Bank (EIB).
NEA on August 18, 2022 announced its plan to achieve 100 percent access to electricity within the next two years, well ahead of the target year of 2030 set by the Sustainable Development Goal 7. The Goal 7 is one of 17 SDGs set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015. It aims to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”.
NEA so far has 4.77 million, excluding 0.55 million who are served by rural community electrification. The government entity dedicated for electricity utility says thatelectricity has reached 92 per cent population of the country.
While talking on electrifying all households of the country, it is realised that the terrains and geography are the challenges while the houses built in remote locations and dispersed in distances are also not a simple task to tackle. Thus, the last mile electricity recipients may be provided electricity by alternative resources or technology. As mentioned above Solar PV and micro hydropower plants are identified as viable solutions.
Moreover, in the changed context and demand of users, electricity supplied should be reliable in quality and consistency. The consumers wherever they reside should be accessed to electricity good for many purposes including cooking by electricity. At least electricity available to them should be nonetheless to the urban dwellers. As such, electricity available to them must not be ‘only for lighting’ and charging mobile phone batteries.
Therefore, a ‘modified’ Solar Home System with enough energy storage for cooking by electricity is a need to consider. Such extended size SHS will be able to generate and store electricity required for cooking food in the morning, day and evening. As studies say that households who cook food by electricity consume around 62 kWh of electricity in a month. That means a 3 kWh battery backup and suitable Solar panel, chargerand inverter should be in the system.
As the price of electricity generation by Solar PV is in decreasing trend in the world market, the price in Nepal also relatively cheaper than before. Thus, the total cost of providing such ‘modified’ SHSs can be worked out at lower than extending the national grid to each and every households or Solar mini-grid designed for a community or a group of households.
Sudden break of electricity supply and low voltage supply are generally not involved in such Solar PV system while simple maintenance and efficient care is enough for smooth functioning. Therefore, it is time to recommend an easy solution to electrify last mile recipients in Karnali Province and other similar places as well.