Despite abundant electricity generation potential, Nepal continues to suffer from an acute shortage of energy. It has been able to generate only 933.1 MW of electricity to date against a daily demand of 1,500 MW. About 53.4 MW of thermal energy is also produced. During the winter season, the actual production of the installed energy goes down by one third. The amount of electricity generated at the moment is very little, given that the nation started producing hydropower more than a century ago. The failure to tap the immense water resources has put a crimp on the overall socio-economic performance of the country. The people’s development ambition has soared with the drastic political changes. It is beyond doubt that the nation needs huge infrastructure development to bring the desired prosperity. Electricity and roads, among others, form the basic requirements for agriculture, industry and the service sector to grow. The electricity demand is growing at an average of 10 per cent annually. But, at the moment, we do not produce sufficient power. Amidst the dichotomy between the higher expectation and fewer resources, Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) has made an optimistic projection with regard to the generation of power. According to its estimate, the country will have 3,309 MW by 2020/21, which is enough to meet the domestic energy needs. The NEA and its subsidiary companies are set to generate 1,010.3 MW of electricity, while the independent power producers will contribute an additional 1,298 MW to the national grid by 2021.
Around 102 hydropower projects - most of them small - are under construction. Their combined capacity stands at 2,309 MW. Kulekhani III (14 MW) and Chameliya (30MW) are expected to generate power by the end of this fiscal year, according to NEA managing director Kulman Ghishing. The Chameliya hydro project is now going through a ‘dry test’ and will undergo the ‘wet test’ next month. Nonetheless, Chameliya can’t be a model hydropower project. It was supposed to have been completed by 2011, but it missed three deadlines – 2013, 2015 and 2016 – owing to various factors. The NEA has incurred a loss of Rs. 2 billion in revenue. The Kulekhani III has also been delayed by five years. The Upper Tamakoshi (456 MW) is likely to be a model hydro project that has pooled investment from diverse sectors. It will begin generating electricity from next year. It has become a challenge to finish hydro projects in time. Their lackluster performance has been attributed to the conflict between the contractors and NEA, labour unrest, dispute with the local people over the acquisition of land and frequent change of government. The NEA has said that the country will not only meet its internal power demand but also have surplus energy within four years. This is very heartening for the people. Of late, the NEA management has proved its mettle by ending load-shedding in the capital. It succeeded in improving the supply situation, enhancing the transmission capacity, managing the demand side and controlling the leakage to do away with the power outage. The NEA’s managerial efficiency and credibility have grown, and it needs solid backing from the political leadership and public to meet its mission.