Load-shedding management is an art of operation: Ghising
Within a few months into office, Kulman Ghising, managing director of Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), has endeared himself to everyone for ending the perennial load-shedding in the Kathmandu Valley and outside it. Ghising has become a beacon of hope for many living in the dark for years. With more than a two-decade-long association with the NEA in different capacities, he is also credited with the successful operation of the Chilime Hydropower Company Limited, a model power plant run by the NEA.
Yogesh Pokharel of The Rising Nepal talked to Ghising on various issues, ranging from his success story to the immediate and long-term plans and challenges and progress on unbundling of the NEA. Excerpts:
The NEA has now successfully brought an end to the power outage that sometime lasted for 18 hours. How was it possible?
I have been reiterating time and again that load-shedding management is an art of the operation. It involves the management of supply, demand, infrastructure, operation and maintenance, among other things. There are several factors behind the removal of load-shedding. The first one is overall management of the available power, in which the supply side remains vital. We have optimised the generation sector so as to generate electricity to the maximum possible.
For this, we devised a special plan to end load-shedding in the Kathmandu Valley as soon as I took charge of the NEA. We formed a committee that was not made public. The committee had submitted a 12-point report with details of the works to be carried out as per the timeline. Some were to be done within a day while some in a week and a month. We put the pedal to the metal to implement it from day one and completed it before the start of the last dry season. Likewise, we pushed the power plants of the IPPs to bring them into operation quickly. We equally paid attention to the demand side management. We estimated a peak load of 1600 MW. We showed the mettle to manage it brilliantly. For this, we must thank the consumers who supported us in managing the peak load demand.
There are two-three issues. When we announced that there would be no load-shedding, people managed on their own. The consumption pattern also changed. When there was no load-shedding, the electricity used to charge the inverters went down by almost 100 MW. Before this, there would be a peak load surge in such a way that people would operate all the electrical equipment during power availability.
We launched an awareness campaign massively. The peak load got limited to 1250/1300 MW, which saved about 200/250 MW. We have cut power to the industries during the peak hours. We have only 300 MW electricity in the country. Almost 270 MW is imported from India. But the peak demand is of more than 1200/1250 MW. There would have been 10-12 hours of load-shedding if we had just looked at the demand and supply of power. However, we have managed it in such a smart way that there is no load-shedding. We have been providing 900/925 MW of power during the peak hours. People do not feel any load-shedding. It is due to the management of the peaking operation.
Power generation has not increased notably. However, there is no power outage not only in the capital but also around the country as a whole. Can you elaborate?
The generation of power at present is about 300 MW, including power from the independent power producers (IPPs). But we generate 550/600MW in the evening. To cut a long story short, the peak-hour operation has worked satisfactorily to free the country from power outage. For example, Kaligandaki A produces only 48 MW in normal operation during this season. However, we have generated 140-144MW during the peaking hours. Similarly, Middle Marsyangdi, Marsyangdi and Chilime are peaking projects, which are operated to balance the demand during the peaking hours. We have succeeded in bringing about optimal use of such peaking projects. This is one of the best reasons behind the existing power management.
Similarly, on the part of maintenance, we have carried out the maintenance work so as to generate maximum peaking capacity. All the power plants are being efficiently operated. Even the 5 MW Gandak Hydropower Project has been operated very efficiently. Because of this, we are able to import 30-35 MW power from India via the Gandak. Earlier, there would have been problem in voltage fluctuation. The voltage level would be very low. However, now the power supply is very smooth and reliable. It helped improve the system and quality too.
It means you have been able to manage the supply with electricity imported from India?
No, the import of electricity is not so high compared to last year. We had imported around 340-345 MW from India last year, too. We have imported about 370-380MW. But there is optimal management of the imported power. We have taken into account important matters, such as when and from where power is imported, when and where it is cheaper, which enabled us to reduce load-shedding easily. It is not easy to end power outage completely just by importing 370 MW from India. We have to manage very smartly from the switching operation, from where to import the necessary power to sustain the demand load.
What about the transmission lines? The projects such as Khimti-Dhalkewar transmission line were in limbo for more than a decade. However, you speeded them so quickly that they were completed within a month or so. How was this possible?
For transmission and distribution of power, the Khimti-Dhalkewar Transmission Line has played a major role in our endeavour. We completed this transmission project on time. Likewise, the second circuit of Kulekhani-Syuchatar got completed. The sub-station of Chapali-Budhanilkantha was 180 MVA (132/66kV) that also got completed. The 132/11kV sub-station 30 MVA also was completed. This was also a major bottleneck in addressing the power problem in the valley. There would have been load-shedding in the Kathmandu Valley if we had not completed these three projects under construction on time. We have to manage the entire essential infrastructure together. Availability of power alone is not sufficient if we do not have sub-stations and transmission lines at par with the amount of electricity. The optimisation of our system along with the import has helped end the load-shedding.
Construction of three towers and management of the switching at Dhalkewar were yet to be completed when I joined the NEA. We worked day and night to complete them within 15 days that helped to bring 40-50 MW from India.
Similarly, we decided to install a 100 MVA transformer in Mujafarpur. This was a contingency plan. It was not there in our earlier plan. There was an assumption that the Dhalkewar sub-station would charge in 220kV. As it was not possible to charge in 220kV because of many other issues, we planned to install a 100 MVA transformer in Mujafarpur immediately, which was completed within a month.
You said it is all about management. If it is so straightforward, why did the previous managements not accomplish this?
Yes, there was no management at all. The top management should have an idea about it, and they should guide the lower staff. However, they had no idea at all.
People were highly depressed due to the perennial load-shedding. You have brought optimism to people. What are your further plans?
This is just a crisis management. It has brought optimism among the people. We know that the value of power is very huge. It is a means of modernisation. A unit of power brings many economic, social and cultural changes in the society. The economic value addition is 10-12 times more.
Now, the issue is how to institutionalise and sustain this achievement. Similarly, we have to be self-reliant in power within the next few years. To make the supply qualitative and reliable, we need to bring generation projects into operation as early as possible.
Projects such as the 30 MW Chameliya and 12 MW Kulekhani III will be completed in the next six months. The 456 MW Tamakoshi hydropower project will be completed within the next one-and-a-half years. More than 270 MW hydro projects under the Chilime Company will be completed in the next two-and-a-half years.
Sanjen Hydroelectric Project (SHEP) with a capacity of 42.5 MW and Sanjen (Upper) Hydroelectric Project (SUHEP) with 14.8 MW will be completed within one-and-a-half years while two other projects – 111 MW Rasuwagadhi and 102 MW Madhya Bhotekoshi will be completed within the next two or two-and-a-half years.
In this way, we will have approximately 1,200 MW additional power, including power generated by the IPPs, in our grid in the next three years. We have 900 MW at present. At that time, we will be able to meet the peak demand easily. Just in case, should the peaking demand surge significantly, we can import some energy from India. We can also exchange energy as we need some energy in the dry season while we can export the excess energy in the wet season.
We are expediting the construction of transmission lines so as to evacuate the power generated from the projects. The River Corridor transmission lines such as the Koshi, Solu, Kabeli, Dordi, Kaligandaki and Trishuli will be completed. There are so many issues that need immediate reform.
In the long run, we have planned to increase the generation of energy within the country. For this, we are selecting large reservoir-based projects and run-of-the-river projects, such as the Upper Arun (700 MW), Dudhkoshi, Tamor, Uttarganga, Tamakoshi-V and Budhigandaki, among others. We are about to start them. Similarly, projects will also be moved from the generation company established by the government.
Similarly, Minister for Energy Janardan Sharma Prabhakar has given the slogan ‘Nepal’s Water Resources, Public Investment’. We are working on this. We hope that a huge FDI will come in Nepal’s energy sector under this initiative. Similarly, we were preparing to construct the 400kV East-West double circuit and 400kV River corridors.
A plan for the NEA’s system automation is in the offing. In the long run, we need to focus on quantity, quality, reliability and affordability. We should go for smart metering, remote billing and remote payment system. We are also working to make the distribution system underground. We are pressing ahead to devise a 20-year plan to develop the energy sector.
What about reforms in the NEA?
We are in the process of reforming the NEA. For its efficient management, we need a complete overhaul of the existing structure of the NEA. We have already 13 different companies. The companies will work autonomously. The NEA will be unbundled into the Engineering Company, Power Trading Company, Transmission Company, Generation Company and Distribution Company, among others.
The NEA is the red. When will it start making a profit?
The NEA will be in profit from next year. The NEA must make a profit not just for the staff and Authority itself. It must be in profit to bring foreign investment. When the NEA’s balance sheet is negative, no foreign company will sign a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the NEA. Therefore, we are lobbying for the financial restructuring of the NEA. The NEA will go into profit from next year if the proposed plan is approved by the government.