This is good news for an energy-starved country that imports around 370 megawatts of electricity from India. The Nepal Electricity Authority is struggling to provide uninterrupted power to households and industries after a decade of severe power cuts.
According to the NEA, the total installed capacity of the hydropower projects in the country will exceed 2,000 MW after another 1,200 MW is added to the grid in the next three years.
“A few NEA projects including the 456 MW Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower Project will come online within three years. In this way, an additional 800 MW of electricity will be generated by the authority,” NEA Managing Director Kulman Ghising told the parliamentary Agriculture and Water Resources Committee that had summoned him to describe the current status of the energy sector.
“Moreover, independent power producers are likely to contribute around 400 MW to the national grid by that time.” The NEA has signed power purchase agreements for around 3,000 MW of electricity while PPAs are expected to be signed for another 5,000 MW.
If energy output expands as planned, the country will see a power surplus during the wet season after three years. As all the projects except the 14 MW Kulekhani 3 are of the run-of-the-river type, actual output will be the same as the installed capacity during the wet season. In order to manage energy spill during the rainy season, domestic consumption has to go up. “But it will increase only if our distribution network supports the additional electricity in the system,” said Ghising, who is leading a crusade to eliminate power outages.
“For example, the existing distribution network of the Kathmandu Valley can’t support more than 400 MW, and we are planning to upgrade it to be able to support up to 2,000 MW.”
With the country on track to generate 10,000 MW in a decade, the distribution system should be strong enough to support at least 15,000 MW, according to Ghising.
“Therefore, the authority’s focus in the coming days will be on improving our distribution system,” said the NEA chief. “Several times, we have been unable to provide uninterrupted power despite having adequate supply due to the lack of a proper distribution system.”
Addressing the House panel, Energy Secretary Anup Kumar Upadhyay said that the Forest Ministry’s reluctance to provide forest clearance was one of the main reasons behind the slow development of the energy sector.
“Difficulties in getting forest clearance for the development of hydro projects and transmission lines are hurting our development,” said Upadhyay. As per the laws, a developer who wants to acquire forest land for a hydro project is required to buy an equivalent area of land and afforest it. Project developers have been complaining about this provision saying it is impractical.
– By Bibek Subedi for TKP