Nepal should promote the use of solar energy

Jun 5, 2019-

It has come to light that electricity has reached 95.5 percent of Nepal’s population. This is a remarkable achievement; one that puts the country well ahead on its plan to provide access to 100 percent of the population by 2030. The government and the Nepal Electricity Authority should be commended on this progress since access to electricity lies at the heart of development and will definitely help the government in fulfilling its prosperity goals. But now that complete access to electricity is about to be achieved throughout the country, the government needs to start thinking about increasing generation capacity. It should also start thinking about the source of electricity, and attempt to integrate more renewable and clean sources.

Nepal has come a long way in a very short time, in terms of increasing access to electricity, considering that only 65 percent of the population was connected in 2010. The next challenge for the country will be to increase generation capacity. In rural areas, the supply is limited--with most houses receiving enough electricity for minimum lighting and charging purposes. Nepal’s demand stood at 1,721 MW in 2017; however, this is set to rise to 8,000 MW by 2030--in line with its development needs. Nepal’s output capacity in 2018 stood at nearly 1,100 MW. Even with many hydropower projects, which have been in construction for years, firing to life in 2019, generation capacity is only expected to cross just over 2,000 MW. Currently, Nepal covers the shortfall in power by importing electricity from India. And, in October 2018, Energy Minister Barsha Man Pun outlined the government's plan to develop 15,000 MW power in 10 years, by mostly partnering with China on hydropower projects. However, both of these strategies have glaring problems.

Electricity generation in the country drops by over 50 percent in the winter months, making it inevitable that Nepal has to cover the shortfall by purchasing power from India. The problem is not only the dependence--which could cause problems like the 2015 blockade showed--but also that 72 percent of the electricity generated in India is from coal-fired plants: a major problem for our fragile environment. Hydropower projects may cover our needs and cut our dependence on India. However, run-of-the-river type hydros have highly reduced capacities during the winter. And large, reservoir-based hydros have many negative aspects, from the higher generation costs to the displacement of people and loss of ecosystems. Moreover, conventional electricity sources have the added costs of running long, ugly and disruptive transmission lines.

Nepal is already a leader in the adoption of solar energy, with 15 percent of our electricity mix coming from solar panels. This renewable energy source has low maintenance costs, lower cost per unit of generation, and higher efficiency. Not only does this technology produce no emissions, but it can also be adopted in a decentralised manner, using rooftops and roads, which reduces the need for long transmission lines and prevents further degradation of pristine land. It is also non-contentious and does not rely on a finite, controlled resource like water or fossil fuels. As Nepal sets to achieve complete electricity access, it should start focusing on promoting solar energy as a large portion of its energy mix.

Published: 06-06-2019 06:30

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