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Power output takes hit as rivers shrink; down 35pc

- BIBEK SUBEDI, Kathmandu
As water levels in the rivers are expected to continue to decrease until mid-March, electricity generation is likely to go down further which will pose challenges to the NEA to keep the country free from power cuts

Dec 13, 2017-Hydroelectricity production has taken a hit due to reduced water levels in the rivers with the dry season in full swing. Officials said energy output had shrunk up to 35 percent.

Since most of the country’s hydroelectric stations are run-of-the-river types, any slowdown in the water flow during the rainless months means an immediate fall in power production.

Kulekhani I and II are the only two power plants with reservoirs in the country. They generate a combined 92 MW using water stored behind the dam and are unaffected by fluctuations in river flow.

But other projects in the country have seen a sharp drop in output of up to 35 percent. Domestic hydropower plants have a combined installed capacity of 956 MW, but production is currently down to 617 MW.

Hydropower projects owned by state-owned power utility Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) are generating 363 MW of electricity. Privately owned plants account for the rest.

Hydroelectricity generation at the NEA-owned 144 MW Kali Gandaki Hydropower Project, the country’s largest plant, has gone down by more than 27 percent to 104.7 MW. Similarly, the Marshyangdi Hydropower Project is putting out only 56.8 MW compared to its installed capacity of 69 MW, according to the NEA.

Power generation at the 70 MW Middle Marshyangdi Hydropower Project has come down by around 25 percent to 51.5 MW. “Output is lower compared to the same period last year,” said Prabal Adhikari, spokesperson for the NEA.

“The temperature has gone down significantly this year, resulting in reduced snowmelt rates in the mountains and decreased water levels in snow-fed rivers like the Marshyangdi.” The decline in electricity generation at other hydropower plants is more severe, according to the NEA.

Currently, peak demand for electricity totals around 1,290 MW, and the power utility has been covering the deficit by importing around 363 MW of electricity from India over a dozen cross-border transmission lines. “We have increased imports by 63 MW over the past month to meet the deficit,” said Adhikari. 

As water levels in the rivers are expected to continue to decrease until mid-March, electricity generation is likely to go down further which will pose challenges to the NEA to keep the country free from power cuts.

The power utility has forecast that peak demand will increase to around 1,380 MW in the coming days with more energy being consumed for heating due to falling temperatures. However, the decline in electricity generation will not lead to a resumption of load-shedding for individual households, the NEA has clearly stated. “But we might increase outage hours for factories,” said Adhikari.

The NEA still has a cushion of 117 MW that it can import from India at short notice. “Last year, we were able to import only around 380 MW of electricity from India.

With two new cross-border transmission lines—Parwanipur-Raxaul and New Kataiya-Kushwa—coming into operation, we will be able to import an additional 100 MW this year,” said Adhikari.

“The extra imports from India will help us keep the country free from power cuts.”

Published: 13-12-2017 08:28

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