Shift To Renewable Energy
Energy crisis is one of the major problems faced by Nepal today. Even though we have enormous potential to harness the renewable sources of energy, we are highly dependent on non-renewable sources as well as traditional fossil and fire-wood fuel-based ‘Carbon Footprint’ technology to fulfil our energy needs. In Nepal, as much as 87 per cent of consumed energy comes from fire-wood and fossil based energy sources. This in turn, is highly contributing to the world wide climatic change, environment pollution and health complications due to the emission of greenhouse gases. On the other end of the yardstick, high energy needs result in large amounts of foreign imported fuels which is ultimately reducing the nation’s financial funds.
To achieve the United Nations’ ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ by 2030, specifically the 7th Global Goal, ‘Clean, Green, Affordable and Reliable Energy’, we must gradually shift to renewable sources of energy to fulfil our energy requirements. This shift can be made possible by following a bottom-up approach; by acting at the local level and gradually moving upwards. This approach has various benefits- (a) the site specific conditions are best recognised at the local level, (b) the proposals made at the local level can be verified by the central level. This paper deals with the current energy scenario in Nepal and the various possible solutions to achieve the above mentioned shift from non-renewable sources of energy to renewable sources of energy.
In order to make a viable shift, we should first consider the site-specific as well as cost-effective solutions which must be practical and feasible to be operated at the local level. Various types of energy sources are abundantly found in different geographical regions of Nepal. Considering this fact, we must develop different models for different geographical regions to achieve energy at higher efficiencies.
At the household level, the concept of Passive Solar Architecture can be used to design and construct the buildings so that comfortable temperatures are maintained at our homes and the use of energy draining devices such as air conditions can be minimised. Furthermore, solar panels (stationary or movable) can be placed in houses so that basic electricity demands can be met along with the provisions of hot water. Surplus electricity generated from the solar cells may be exported to the national grid which in turn contributes to the national development.
In addition to this, the concept of rainwater harvesting can be effectively utilised to meet the simple water requirements at home such as watering plants, flushing purposes, etc. For rainwater harvesting, the water obtained from roof slopes of buildings and structures transported via gutter and PVC pipes during rainy season, can be collected in small water collection chambers. This may be further purified as required and can be used for various household purposes.
As a second option, small scale hydro-electric projects with multipurpose objectives are suitable to fulfil the energy demands of local communities, wherever possible. A typical, simplified and traditional alternative is water mill. About 6,500 traditional water mills out of 25,000 have been converted to Improved Water Mills (IWM) in Nepal. It was promoted by Nepal government and other stakeholders. In IWM, the wooden rotor and shaft has been replaced with metallic parts and it can generate electricity up to 3kW. Additionally, water mills also helped reduce the burden of traditional grinding. Previously, grinding was mainly done by women and installation of water mills was a turning point to them.
Furthermore, the enhancement of large scale hydropower projects is one of the most important challenges to Nepal at the national level. Around 43,000 MW of hydropower potential has been regarded as theoretically and economically viable in Nepal. The perennial nature of Nepali rivers and steep gradient of the country’s topography are major plus points to help tap the enormous energy potential. However, Nepal has only 600 MW of installed capacity in Integrated Nepal Power System (INPS). Projects such as Upper Tamakoshi and Arun – III shall be milestones in Nepali Hydropower scenario after completion.
Thirdly, due to the mountainous terrain, Nepal has a huge potential for harnessing wind energy as an alternative source of energy. It is estimated that commercially viable wind potential of the country is 448 MW. At the local level, small wind electric systems work wonders for a small and remote locality with abundant wind. These small wind electric systems can be connected to the electricity distribution grids. It is estimated that 4.5 m/s average wind speed in a locality is sufficient for the grid connected systems to be practical. Wind electric systems are feasible in windy places like Manang, Mustang, Langtang, etc. where average wind speed is abundant. 2 windmills with 400 W capacities ware established in Kavre in 2007.
Sustainable development through renewable energy is a practical objective which is very much applicable at the local levels for prosperity of the nation as a whole. Central and policy level initiative may serve as a boost to achieve this objective. Government should focus on collaborating engineers, social scientists as well as researchers to develop and apprehend modern technologies in the field of renewable energy sources in Nepal.
Furthermore, Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC), under the Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation can be established as a centre of excellence in the field of renewable energy sector in Nepal. With the initiation at the central and local levels, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals can be achieved by 2030. It is relevant to conclude this piece with a quote of Dennis Kucinich: “It is time for a sustainable energy policy which puts consumers, the environment, human health, and peace first.”
(The author is a civil engineer currently working at Maharishi Vedic Institute Pvt. Ltd)