It consists of come to light that electricity has reached 95.5% of Nepal’s population. This is really a remarkable victory; one that puts the country well ahead on its plan to give access to 100% of the population by 2030. The government and the Nepal Electricity Authority must be commended on this progress since access to electricity lies at the heart of development and will certainly help the government in fulfilling its prosperity goals. However that complete access to electricity is about to be achieved all over the country, the government has to begin thinking about enhancing generation capacity. It should also start thinking about the source of electricity, and try to integrate more renewable and clean sources.
Nepal has come a long way in an exceedingly limited time, in terms of increasing access to electricity, considering that only 65 % of the population was connected in 2010. The next challenge for the country would be to increase generation capacity. In rural areas, the supply is limited–with most houses receiving enough electricity for minimum lighting and charging purposes. Nepal’s demand stood at 1,721 MW in 2017; but, this is certainly set to rise to 8,000 MW by 2030–in line with its development needs. Nepal’s output capacity in 2018 stood at nearly 1,100 MW. In spite of many hydropower projects, that have been in construction for years, firing to life in 2019, generation capacity is only anticipated to cross just over 2,000 MW. Presently, Nepal covers the shortfall in power by importing electricity from India. And, in October 2018, Energy Minister Barsha Man Pun outlined the government’s plan to develop 15,000 MW power in 10 years, by mostly partnering with China on hydropower projects. But, both of these strategies have glaring issues.
Electricity generation in the country drops by over 50 % in the winter months, which makes it inevitable that Nepal has to cover the shortfall by purchasing power from India. The problem is not only the dependence–which could cause problems like the 2015 blockade showed–but also that 72 percent of the electricity generated in India is from coal-fired plants: a major issue for our fragile environment. Hydropower projects may cover our needs and cut our dependence on India. But, run-of-the-river type hydros have highly reduced capacities during the winter. And large, reservoir-based hydros have many negative aspects, from the higher generation costs to the displacement of people and loss of ecosystems. Furthermore, conventional electricity sources have the added costs of running long, ugly and disruptive transmission lines.
Nepal has already been a leader in the adoption of solar energy, with 15 % of our electricity mix coming from solar panels. This renewable power source has low maintenance charges, the lower cost each unit of generation, and greater efficiency. But not only does this technology produce no emissions, however, it will also be adopted in a decentralized manner, using rooftops and roads, which reduces the demand for long transmission lines and prevents further degradation of pristine land. It can also be non-contentious and does not rely on a finite, controlled resource like water or fossil fuels. As Nepal sets to achieve complete electricity access, it should begin concentrating on promoting solar energy as a large portion of its energy mix.