National

Kulman Ghising: The man who gave us light

  • Kantipur Icon 2018
- Deepak Adhikari, Kathmandu

Feb 15, 2019-

This is the final profile of the winners of Kantipur Icon 2018, awarded by Kantipur Foundation, the non-profit philanthropic arm of Kantipur Media Group. Kulman Ghising, the managing director of Nepal Electricity Authority, is the winner in the Business & Economy category.

Nepal Electricity Authority Managing Director Kul Man Ghising likes to call his post a ‘hot seat’, but the seat in his office in Kathmandu remained mostly unoccupied this past winter. In the last week of December, he was busy leading the Nepali delegation to the 13th meeting of Nepal-India Power Exchange Committee, and a month later he went to Pokhara for a meeting of the same committee. The Pokhara meeting culminated with the agreement to exchange energy between the two countries.

Electricity consumers often remember and compliment Ghising during the cold days and nights of winter. Only two winters ago, the country was reeling under 18 hours of load shedding daily as water level in the run-of-the-river hydropower plants depleted.  This state of affairs had not only made people’s daily life difficult, it also hit the country’s economy hard. Ghising claims the recent meetings between Nepal and India, and the amendment to energy directorate made in December (Nepali month of Poush) will make a huge contribution for a long-term strategy on Nepal’s energy management.

The credit for liberating the country from nearly a decade-long load shedding problem goes to Ghising. However, when he was appointed the managing director of Nepal Electricity Authority on September 14, 2016, he didn’t have a plan or target to end the power outage. As he took the reins of the state-owned power utility by surpassing many senior potential candidates, there were speculations that Ghising would be unsuccessful just like his predecessors owing to internal problems within the state power utility.           

Having worked in Nepal Electricity Authority for years, he was aware of the organisation’s internal mechanics, which proved very helpful as he set out to end the country’s load shedding. Interestingly, the topic of his postgraduate thesis at Pulchowk Engineering College was ‘Integrated Resource Planning with Demand Side Management’.

On October 30, 2016, a little over a month after his appointment, Ghising’s team faced a huge challenge: to supply uninterrupted power to households across the country. The day was Laxmi Puja, which is when households across the country light up their houses, shooting the demand for electricity through the roof. But Ghising’s team succesfully managed to overcome the challenge.

On that day, NEA supplied 340 Megawatt of power to Kathmandu Valley alone, and Ghising spent hours at load dispatch centre at Syuchatar, Kathmandu. By the time he reached home, it was 12 am on October 31. His family had to observe the Laxmi Puja rituals without him.

After having successfully supplied electricity during the festival of lights, Ghising had in front of him another big challenge--continuing the momentum. “The biggest issue managing power supply during peak hours. Another major challenge was keeping tabs on power supply between substations and ensuring smooth power supply to stations that have inadequate supply,” he said. Ghising also saw that there was a huge discrimination in the distribution of electricity. Some of the industries, banks, and hospitals were receiving an uninterrupted supply of electricity, while the general public was spending hours in darkness. “All who assumed the post of managing director before me were happy to perpetuate the discrimination in power supply,”said Ghising. “To end power outage, I knew it was important to tackle all these issues.”

Ghising’s formula worked wonders with multi-dimensional effect. Ending the decade-long load-shedding had a positive impact on the nation’s economy. But it dealt a huge blow to the country’s inverter traders. Around 400 Megawatt capacity diesel-powered inverters in the country, half of which were being operated in Kathmandu, went out of operation. These excessive power-consuming appliances were put away, thereby saving the diesel consumed by such devices. Starting off from the Capital, the power cuts were gradually ended across the country. “I received many encouraging messages from people all over the country,” he says.

Ghising, however, has not remained immune from criticisms. He has been accused of taking the credit for ending load-shedding by importing more electricity from India. “Even though importing electricity from India to make up for the shortage in electricity production versus demand sounds simple, it is not.  It requires extensive knowledge of NEA’s existing infrastructure and demand during peak and off-peak hours among others,”he said.

Born in Bethan village of Ramechhap district, Ghising, 48, learned how to write under a dim light of tuki (traditional oil lamp) in a small room at his ancestral home. He started going to a primary school, about half an hour’s walk from his home, when he was seven years old. He came to Kathmandu with his brothers and was enrolled in grade 7 at Bal Sewa Secondary School in Jhochhe, Kathmandu. He completed his SLC from Amar Adarsh Secondary School and Intermediate of Science from Amrit Science Campus.

The bright and hardworking Ghising received a scholarship to study electrical engineering at Regional Institute of Technology in Jamshedpur, India. Upon returning to Nepal after completing his studies, he applied for government jobs and got selected at three places—a Ministry, Civil Aviation Department, and Nepal Electricity Authority. He chose NEA because this was where he could apply his academic knowledge.

Ghising, who first received praises for his decision to grant shares to the locals affected by Rasuwa-based Chilime Hydropower, had to remain idle for two years due to his tussle with the then energy minister. “I was the director of NEA. But my office did not even have chair for me to sit on. For two years, all I did was just record my attendance,” he recalls.

While many in the country thought that a load shedding-free Nepal was out of the question, Ghising proved many wrong by ending it within two months of taking the NEA helm.

“Whatever goals you set, you have to remain dedicated to achieve them and stick to your responsibilities,” Ghising says.

 

Published: 16-02-2019 06:30

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