Encouraging Signs In Energy Sector

Uttam Maharjan

 

The energy sector is an important component of the overall economy. Without energy, the wheels of the economy cannot move. Energy has paramount importance in every sector, be it agriculture, healthcare, transportation or industry.

In Nepal, the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), a government corporation, is involved in the management of the electricity requirements for various purposes. Of the various forms of energy, electricity commands high significance.

Corruption

Of late, the Kathmandu Valley has been load-shedding-free, thanks to the initiative taken by Kulman Ghising. Plans are afoot to exonerate the whole country of load-shedding in the foreseeable future. Even before Ghising helmed the NEA, there was talk of freeing the country of load-shedding. But such talk just turned out to be rhetoric.

In fact, the country had to experience load-shedding for years due to the rampant corruption on the part of leaders, NEA staff, both high-ranking and low-ranking, and businessmen and other influential persons.

Recently, the police nabbed some NEA staff, technicians and metre readers, for indulging in corruption by tampering with the electricity metres. They would use various appliances to reduce the number of actual units shown by the metres by tampering with them. By doing so, they would get a hefty sum of money from the businessmen and others, whereas the latter would pay less, thus depriving the NEA of revenue. The businessmen and others got a supply of electricity at a reduced price, with the impact falling on the NEA in the form of reduced revenue.

The NEA admits that there is 26 percentage of leakages of electricity, both technical and non-technical. Electricity theft by consumers alone or in collusion with the NEA staff as in the above instance of metre-tampering is non-technical in nature. Power theft by the NEA staff alone contributes to four or five per cent of leakages, whereas technical leakages amount to 12-15 per cent. Technical leakages are caused by old and substandard transformers and inefficient distribution lines. It is estimated that the NEA has to bear a whopping 13 billion rupees in loss due to leakages amounting to 240 MW of electricity. The NEA made a plan in 2068 B.S. for reducing leakages which stood at 28.35 per cent at that time to 20 per cent.

It is deplorable to note that the leakages have come down to 26 per cent over the last five years.  So the government and the NEA should pull out all the stops to prevent electricity theft by taking punitive measures against those found guilty. At the same time, adequate attention should be paid to replace the old and substandard transformers and improving distribution lines.

Electricity theft should be taken as a grave crime. As energy is associated with life in the present-day world dominated by energy, electricity theft tends to deprive the consumers who require electricity of the same, thus throwing their life out of gear.

It has been reported- and even admitted by none other than the Energy Minister- that the people had to experience load-shedding for years for no fault of theirs due to the misconduct on the part of the high-ranking officials at the NEA, perhaps in collusion with the government. Although this disturbing and perturbing fact came out into the open three months ago, neither the government nor the NEA has named the guilty, much less initiate action against them. Those indulging in load-shedding in favour of businessmen and power traders at the cost of the general public did a great grave crime, which is not venial at any cost. This heinous act on the part of them resulted in the economy going haywire. Industries found it heavy going to conduct their operations for lack of electricity on the one hand, while on the other they had to spend a heavy sum to operate generators. However, the additional cost incurred on making arrangements for alternative power would pass on to the consumers. So from a consumerist’s standpoint, too, electricity theft is a crime of a grave magnitude.

However, the initiative taken by the NEA boss in eliminating load-shedding is beyond praise. At the same time, the NEA has also paid heed towards completing the ongoing hydro projects. The much-touted West Seti Hydropower Project, which has been stalled for years, is most likely to be started soon as the Chinese party has shown interest in constructing the project.

The NEA has also paid heed to arrangements for transmission lines so as to facilitate the import of electricity from neighbouring countries, especially India. The volume of imports of electricity from India is growing, which has greatly contributed to extirpating load-shedding in the Kathmandu Valley.

The initiative taken by the NEA boss has shown without doubt that the country can make great strides if the government and the concerned officials have the will and do not give way to financial avarice. In fact, it is the financial avarice that leads to corruption. Once corruption spreads its tentacles, it will be hard to contain it. However, with a strong anti-corruption mechanism in place, corruption can be controlled to a great extent.

Now, the people are hopeful that the energy sector, especially hydropower, will improve in the days to come. That the present government and the NEA have attached importance to hydel projects is something to feel relieved about. If the available hydropower can be harnessed to the maximum extent possible, the country will be able to make great differences in the economy. The export of hydropower to neighbouring countries will change the economy of the country for the better.

Resources

As the country is going into federalism in the near future and there will be local, provincial and federal governments, the country will need huge resources to run the country like clockwork. As the country is already cash-strapped, it will be difficult for it to manage such huge resources. In this context, the optimal development of hydropower may come in handy. Viewed thus, the development of the hydropower sector has a boon in store for the country. Therefore, the government and the NEA should pay attention to the development of the energy sector, especially hydropower, so that the untapped resource can be utilised to the fullest for the benefit of the country and the people. 

 

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