Ending Load-shedding In Kathmandu Valley

 

Uttam Maharjan

 

The Kathmandu Valley has not experienced load-shedding since the Tihar festival. Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) has reasoned that a higher volume of import of power (300 MW) from India, closure of industries during the festival season (resulting in a saving of 300 MW) and control of leakages of power, among others, have contributed to ending the regular power outage in the valley.

The country has been suffering from load-shedding for years. In the past, successive governments drew up plans for ending load-shedding within a certain timeframe by enhancing the generation of hydropower. There were talks about generating 10,000 MW of hydropower in 10 years and 25,000 MW in 20 years. However, the plans failed as even no groundwork was prepared to implement them.

Strategy

The Oli-led government formulated a load-shedding-eliminating strategy for ending load-shedding within one or two years by declaring an energy crisis. But the initiative of the NEA in ending load-shedding in the Valley is not as per the strategy formulated by the Oli-led government. And it would be foolish to give credit to ex-premier KP Sharma Oli for an end to load-shedding in the valley although some people may be under the impression that it has been possible to bid adieu to load-shedding in the valley in line with the strategy adopted by the Oli-led government.

Due to the load-shedding problem besetting the country for years, people are forced to arrange for alternative power. As such, the business of emergency lights, invertors, generators and the like has flourished in the country. Such equipment is imported from abroad. This means an outflow of hard-earned currency from the country.

On the other hand, factories and industries are compelled to use generators for smooth operation. Generators consume a lot of fuel. The country has to spend billions of rupees on the import of POL products. If there were no load-shedding, a big chunk of money could be saved by slashing the import of petroleum fuel.

Power leakages are a major problem in the country. As per NEA sources, about 30 MW of power is lost through leakages. The NEA is aware of where power leakages take place to a large extent. Areas that indulge in power pilferage have also to suffer from additional load-shedding in proportion to the amount of power leakages. The higher the leakages, the higher the additional load-shedding.  

The current initiative taken by the NEA goes on to show that load-shedding can be gradually eliminated across the country if the government and the NEA act honestly. It seems giving way to big business houses from venal motives is the main contributing factor in resorting to load-shedding in the country. Further, inaction on the part of the government and the NEA in taking action against power pilferers and tariff defaulters is another reason for almost perpetuating load-shedding in the country.

A few years ago, a scam involving high-ranking officials of the NEA in the procurement of substandard transformers surfaced. Such substandard transformers cannot bear high loads and tend to explode, causing damage to them. The NEA has to spend hugely on the repair and maintenance of such defective transformers. It is also reported that there are irregularities in the NEA and so it is imperative to bring the management of the NEA on track. 

The country has an installed capacity of 784 MW of hydropower from both government and private-sector projects, whereas the demand for electricity is around 1,100 MW. As per the NEA, the demand for electricity was 1,000 MW last year, whereas it peaked to 1,800 MW during the Indian embargo. As the demand has not remarkably risen, it has been easy for the NEA to manage the distribution of electricity. Some power is also going to be added to the central grid in the immediate future. 

The NEA is saying that the uninterrupted supply of power to the Kathmandu Valley since the festival of Tihar is merely a stopgap measure, hinting that load-shedding may resume from the second week of Mangsir. Now the flow of water in the rivers has not diminished. During the dry season when the level of water in the rivers becomes low, the generation of power is affected. So the chances of load-shedding coming up again are high in the dry season.

But the better management of the distribution of electricity (for example withdrawing excess electricity from areas requiring a low volume of electricity and channelling it to areas that require more electricity) and control of power leakages, together with the replacement of defective transformers with better ones, may contribute a lot to rooting out load-shedding in the country.

In the meantime, top priority should be given to complete ongoing hydel projects in time, start the process of constructing those hydel projects that have been approved and take the initiative in constructing new hydel projects through domestic sources or foreign investments. Here, the will and honesty of the government play a pivotal role. 

 

Alternative sources

At the same time, exploring alternative sources of energy is also equally important. In this regard, solar power seems to be a viable proposition. The government has also emphasised the use of solar power. The Alternative Energy Promotion Centre has taken the initiative in popularising the use of solar power among the masses. The drive needs to be spread to every nook and cranny of the country.

The initiative taken by the NEA in eliminating load-shedding in the Kathmandu Valley is highly praise-worthy. The initiative needs to be in place without fear from any vested interests. This initiative has shown that people have been suffering from load-shedding due to the collusion between the government/NEA and the vested interest groups. Such an anti-people practice must come to an end, or else the people will be forced to live in darkness forever.   

 

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