Triumphant year for countrys energy sector
- BIBEK SUBEDI, Kathmandu
Jan 1, 2017- Upper Madi Hydroelectric Project started generating electricity from Friday after Energy Minister Janardan Sharma inaugurated the 25MW plant located at Sildujure in Kaski. As the year 2016 was drawing to a close, it was yet another good news for the country’s triumphant energy sector. A couple of days before, the Energy Ministry signed power development agreement (PDA) with Water and Energy Development Company (NWEDC) for the construction of the Upper Trishuli-1 Hydroelectric Project—the first ever PDA with a private company.
Few weeks ago, 900MW Arun III Hydropower Project concluded private land acquisition, and a few months ago, 900MW Upper Karnali Hydropower Project also signed land acquisition deals with private land owners. Over the past year, around 140MW hydroelectricity produced by various private developers, including 50MW Upper Marshyangdi A and 15MW Hewa Khola, got connected to the national grid. Hoverer, Nepal Electricity Authority’s (NEA) contribution remained nil last year. The major highlight of the past year was NEA’s campaign to end loadshedding in the Kathmandu Valley and significantly reduce outage hours in other parts of the country under the leadership of its new Managing Director Kulman Ghising.Immediately after his appointment in mid-September, Ghising started his crusade against loadshedding. The general public, however, were unaware of Ghising’s ambitious plan until October 30, the day when Nepalis celebrated Laxmi Puja, the festival of lights. On that day, electricity consumption in the Valery had reached its annual peak of more than 315MW. Yet, the Capital did not witness power outage.Encouraged by the achievement of providing uninterrupted power supply in the Valley during the festival, Ghising even went on to claim that the Capital would never face loadshedding again. Many dismissed Ghising’s claims as “populist”, but the Valley has not faced power cuts—save the aberrations—since he made the declaration, while outages have been limited to just a few hours per day in other parts of the country.
This has made Ghising a national hero and a poster boy for virtuous civil service, although some claim he is tapping the Kulekhani reservoir project—which is generally used to generate electricity during winter when the water level in rivers dip—to light homes in the Valley, as a result, would face longer loadshedding hours this winter. Ghising acknowledges running the Kulekhani plant for several minutes per day to ease loadshedding in the Valley, but he claims it won’t affect power supply during winter. Many people have steered NEA in the past decade, but no one had been able to manage electricity load as efficiently as Kulman Ghising. This one-point agenda of the state-owned power utility has united people from all walks of life and everyone is supporting NEA’s move. “I have never seen the country united on any agenda by anyone before,” said NEA Spokesperson Prabal Adhikari. “We are very motivated to work hard to relive the country from power cuts.”
The beginning of the year, however, was depressing as majority of the projects under construction were damaged by devastating earthquakes and their construction was further delayed by fuel shortages triggered by unofficial trade embargo imposed by India. Things started falling into place only after then Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi jointly inaugurated the Dhalkebar-Muzaffarpur cross-border transmission line in February, giving a major boost to cross-border power trade. Subsequently, NEA started importing 80MW electricity through the power line, which will increase to 120MW from the first day of 2017. After the upgradation of a substation at Dhalkebar, which is currently under way, the import can be further increased to around 230MW. Similarly, NEA’s projects like 60MW Upper Trishuli 3A, 30MW Chameliya and 14MW Kulekhani 3, whose construction had been stalled due to various reasons, have resumed under Ghising’s leadership. This, according to Adhikari, will make 2017 more fruitful in terms of hydropower generation. “NEA’s projects alone will contribute 104MW to the system, whereas we can expect an additional 200MW from private developers,” he said.