Shailendra Guragain, who has been active in the promotion of hydropower projects for a long time, is also the leader of this sector. He believes that the development of the hydropower sector will lead to the development of the country. Nepal Infrastructure.com had a brief conversation with Guragain, who is also the former president of IPPAN, an organization of independent energy producers Nepal, on the occasion of the Power Summit.
What is the main problem facing the private sector now? How to solve that challenge?
There are only opportunities for independent energy producers in the private sector in the future. Challenges are just normal things. The biggest opportunity is that India has also talked about purchasing electricity from Nepal.Bangladesh has also promised to purchase electricity produced by Nepal. Currently, international transmission lines are also under construction and under construction process. There is talk of Asianizing our grid under BIMISTEC. BBIN (Bhutan, India, Bangladesh and Nepal) is also working. Therefore, what we have to understand is that now there is no alternative to focus on electricity generation. What we need to do is to connect this opportunity to our prosperity by generating electricity as soon as possible or as fast as possible.
Did you say this in a positive way? Even now, the power purchase agreement (PPA) of the 12,000 MW hydropower project is yet to be signed. Electricity business is still not easy. In the past, there is an experience of wasting electricity, although it is good in theory, there are still difficulties in practice, aren’t they?
It is not a difficulty, our responsibilities have increased. It cannot be called difficulty. As the responsibilities increase sooner than later, a transmission line will have to be built. Our hydropower projects will have to be built. The constructed projects will have to be ‘evacuated’ and taken to the border. There is a need to agree across the border as well. These are the things that need to be discussed. Politically, many things have been revealed. Some are in the process of opening. Therefore, what needs to be done practically will have to be carried forward. There are more things that we need to work on than the current challenges. It seems that making a grid is the biggest need for Nepal. Let’s say if this grid can be extended to the border area of Nepal or to the power center, our other challenges are the challenges of details.
What do you say about the fact that Nepal has not been able to take diplomatic initiatives and negotiate for electricity trade?
We had to initiate and negotiate diplomatically with India for electricity trade. There are definitely some shortcomings from us. So far, most of the talks and agreements with India have been held only in the Government-to-Government (G2G) model. We have been demanding from the government that we should be able to enter into an agreement between businesses-to-businesses (B2B). B2B has already been opened in India and Bangladesh.
However, the government of Nepal has not yet opened up the private sector to B2B. If the Nepal government were to open B2B, we would have sold the electricity produced by the hydropower plant directly to the industry. Or we could take it to the power center and trade the electricity produced by us. Therefore, the government of Nepal has not understood this matter. Even though the previous minister said that it will be opened immediately, it has not yet been opened. Let’s hope it opens soon. We are also hopeful that we will soon be able to do business on the B2B model.
Since the year 2065, Electricity Bill has been going to the Parliament and coming back again. It seems that this has blocked many ways to open electricity business. Don’t you think that the government agencies are too slow to pass the bill?
Like if the mouth of the eater is not touched by the moustache. If the government wants, there are examples of the bill being passed on the same day. Bills, procedures, rules and laws are stuck for the 20th and 30th years only because those at the leadership level do not want to. So let’s hope now. The current leadership has understood that the main source of government revenue is energy. Nepal is not exporting manpower; we should earn money by exporting electricity. People should be given employment in their own country.
Politicians and some other people also do not have a negative opinion on hydropower, but they do not seem very generous in passing the electricity bill. Why?
All this is the result of political instability. However, even though it is a product of political instability, we do not have the freedom to stop production of hydropower projects based on the product of instability. Currently, in our country, we are not able to pay salaries to the employees. Electricity is the only option for us as an alternative source of revenue collection. This matter has been known and understood. Recently, PPA of 1500 MW has also been opened. So what I am saying is that there is no need for us to be pessimistic.
In the midst of such a situation, Ippan is holding a power summit, what kind of initiative do you think it will take to open various unopened areas?
In the initial years, we conducted the Power Summit with the aim of spreading public awareness about hydropower projects. Now, with the spread of public awareness in the hydropower sector, the private sector came into the construction of hydropower projects. Now with the construction of the project, we have also gone to electricity consumption. Therefore, it would be best if we could create jobs in the country by consuming electricity within the country as much as possible.
We have reached the stage of generating a lot of electricity and selling it abroad to earn foreign currency. This is the difference between the previous Power Summit and the upcoming Power Summit on 5th and 6th of Baisakh. So let’s hope that now there will be a lot of talk about electricity consumption. There will be a lot of discussions about opening industries within the country. There will be a discussion about providing employment. There will be a discussion about in which foreign market can sell the surplus electricity that is consumed by us. The current Power Summit will be aimed at increasing electricity consumption.
It is understood that the PPA is not open due to the fact that the private sector has leapfrogged in the production, and the consumption has not increased accordingly. What kind of concrete steps do you think this summit will take to increase consumption?
Mainly, surplus electricity during monsoon is to be exported to India and Bangladesh. When there is surplus electricity in Nepal, it is time to attract foreign industrialists to establish industries that can consume it. We expect the Power Summit to strongly raise the issue on both of these issues.