Nepal Purbadhar

मङ्लबार, असार ५, २०८१
Tuesday, June 18, 2024

मङ्लबार, असार ५, २०८१
Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Province-1 holds potential to become power trade hub

I start with my introduction.  I am the first hydropower project developer in Nepal, representing the private sector. For the past 25 years, I have been continuously involved in the development of hydropower. During this period, about a dozen hydropower projects have been completed and are in operation under my leadership. Many of these hydropower projects are in Province 1, where my birthplace Bhojpur district lies.

When we started the hydropower business, no domestic investment had entered this sector.  For the first time, we constructed the 3 MW Piluwa River hydroelectric project in Sankhuwasabha district through the Arun Valley Hydropower Development Company. This is the first private-sector hydropower project built with indigenous investment. While this project was being built, the country was witnessing a Maoist-led armed conflict at its height. We completed the construction of this project and put it

into operation, ignoring the conflict. Since then, my entire family has been fully involved in the development of the hydropower sector. The energy that we consume now is used by the citizens to turn on the lights, cook food, warm themselves, feed the cattle, and run the industry. If we look at the data on energy consumption (electricity and other energy) in our country, about 66 percent of the total consumption is used to burn wood, firewood, hay, and dung cake, among others.  The remaining 34 percent is supplied by coal, petroleum products, and electricity.

The contribution of electrical energy to modern energy is only 12 percent. That is why we have to talk about the state of energy consumption from 88 percent of other sources besides electrical energy. We can either increase firewood production or increase electrical energy production and consumption. A large amount of firewood is being used in remote villages that do not have access to electricity from the national transmission system. Looking at the energy consumption of places where firewood is commonly used, the forest needs to be expanded. A forest does not mean that it should always be protected, that it should not be touched, or that a tree should not be cut.

In every book of economics, I have read and understood, everything should be harvested. After planting corn, we should eat it after harvesting; otherwise, there will be no point in planting and irrigating the corn. In the same way, the trees and firewood in our forest should be used properly. And it is important to think that new trees should be planted in empty places because the main source of energy currently being used in Nepal is mostly forest firewood. Favorable laws should be made in Province-1, regarding the utilization of this source of energy.

Because the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) did not buy all the electricity produced by the private sector from mid-June 2022 to mid-September 2022, electricity worth Rs200 million produced by the hydropower station promoted by my team has been wasted. Many people have the mentality that electricity should not be sold; it should be consumed within the country.

However, the real thing is that electricity should be consumed as soon as it is produced. During the monsoon of the current year, electricity worth about Rs2 billion was wasted from 18 hydropower plants in the private sector, including those in which I invested. Remembering that situation, I want to break down and cry in front of everyone.

When electricity is wasted, it is not only the promoter who invests in the project who bears the loss. It causes losses for the country as well. Let’s say that the economy of the country itself will suffer. The hydropower plant I built is not only my personal property but the property of the nation. Those who are in a responsible position of the state, should understand this.

In Province-1, the effect of burning dung cakes and the smoke that comes out of that on the health of the housewife is concerning and has to be reduced. For that, the province should take the lead and pass a clear law on the use of forests. When talking about Province-1, there is no separate law related to electricity. Therefore, this province should make a law related to electricity that is suitable for it. A self-governing electricity authority should be established. This province should have its own authority. And, there should be a law related to electricity.

If Nepal trades electricity abroad or within the country, it is possible from this province, but not from other provinces. The province should consider electricity as a trading commodity. The country will not become rich if only the NEA monopolizes electricity. If the authority starts saying that I cannot sell electricity, what would the private sector do in that situation.

When electricity is wasted, it is not only the promoter who invests in the project who bears the loss. It causes losses for the country as well. Let’s say that the economy of the country itself will suffer. The hydropower plant I built is not only my personal property but the property of the nation. Those who are in a responsible position of the state, shouldunderstand this.

This year, the private sector lost Rs2 billion in income because the NEA did not purchase electricity from them. However, I have seen that the situation will be even worse in next year’s monsoon. New hydropower plants are being built. However, the NEA has not been able to expand the internal market, which is why the electricity business has not been able to progress. As a result, an energy crisis will erupt in the coming days. It is sad to see entrepreneurs like us wasting electricity every year.

Therefore, I request everyone. Electricity must be consumed as soon as it is produced; if not, it is going to be wasted. But when will the industry come? To answer that question, industrialists will consider locating their businesses in Nepal only if the tariff rate for electricity in Nepal is low and of good quality. The domestic consumption of electricity will increase only at this time, and it sounds very good that the electricity produced in the country should be consumed within the country. However, if there is an imbalance between demand and supply, we have to take it to the foreign market and do business. This trade is meant to balance the transient and the stable.

Province-1 is so rich that this eastern region is connected with Sikkim. In Sikkim, six projects have been built from the Teesta River, and the electricity from the Teesta has come from the borders of Manebhanjyang, Pashupatinagar, and Siliguri. If we can connect the electricity produced in the province to that transmission line, we can get a lot of benefits. The hydropower plants in Taplejung, Panchthar, and Ilam districts in the country’s east can be connected to the grid via West Bengal. Likewise, the transmission line is still connected from Anarmani in Jhapa to the easternmost point in Kisanganj in Bihar, India. Even from that point, we can send up to 15 MW of electricity to India.

The provincial government here should make the province a business hub for purchasing and exporting electricity. For this, I have come to Biratnagar to show the nation a new way based on the law by keeping the evidence and discussing it with the analyst on the basis of data, facts, and figures.

We are still using black energy. Black energy is electricity, which is produced by thermal plants using diesel and coal. After sending the hydroelectric energy produced in Nepal to India, the diesel and coal-based plants have been stalled. The 39 MW multifuel plant at Biratnagar in Morang has also been left in limbo for years. Now electricity from India is coming to Nepal. My demand is that we should be allowed to sell electricity from the Pattaiya line. It should be brought to Nepal through the same transmission line, but why not? Why is it possible to buy but not to sell? Because of this problem, the provincial government should initiate the process of purchasing and selling electricity.

The provincial government here should make the province a business hub for purchasing and exporting electricity. For this, I have come to Biratnagar to show the nation a new way based on the law by keeping the evidence and discussing it with the analyst on the basis of data, facts, and figures. I have said four things so far: create a law, create an environment for doing business in India, and take the province forward in electricity production as well. In terms of business, we are hydropower businessmen, the largest industry in the province. We have invested the most in this province. Therefore, an environment should be created to further expand this investment. Many resources and materials are now required to advance the work in the electricity sector. Where does that source come from? Even now, it is just a dream to talk about the industrial development of the country or full electrification. A five-year plan should be made for all these works and the transmission line plan should also be included in that plan. Give at least one electric stove to the voters who vote for you.

At present, the way India has progressed aggressively in the production of solar energy, Province-1 also has a lot of potentials to produce electricity from solar energy sources. If the province produces electricity by placing solar panels in the canals made for irrigation of agricultural land, it can be exported as well as consumed domestically.

Mothers and sisters living in rural areas need electricity more than people living in cities. Let electric stoves reach their homes. The state government should give them the opportunity to cook and eat on modern electric stoves. Everyone is aware of Province’s enormous energy production potential. I want to say that the use and development of renewable energy in the province should be done immediately. There is a possibility of hydropower generation in the hilly districts of the province, and similarly, there is a possibility of solar power generation.

At present, the way India has progressed aggressively in the production of solar energy, Province-1 also has a lot of potentials to produce electricity from solar energy sources. If the province produces electricity by placing solar panels in the canals made for irrigation of agricultural land, it can be exported as well as consumed domestically.

Similarly, electricity can also be produced by using turbines for wind power generation in our mountains. For this, the private sector has to work together with the government. Please implement the public-private partnership law. The provincial government and the private sector should work together and use the government’s resources and facilities to develop the nation and help the government grow. Since the private sector is an assistant to the development of the government, it is only possible to develop the province through cooperation. Only then is the development of the energy sector and the nation possible.

(Edited part of the views presented by energy entrepreneur Neupane at the program on ‘Energy for Sustainable Development organized by the Independent Power Producers’ Association in Morang, Biratnagar, with the support of the International Finance Corporation.)

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