Nepal complies with Paris Agreement on Climate Change which came into force since November 4, 2016. The system for allocating and spending budget in line with climate code has been initiated and RE promotion has been given high priority
According to NASA, the global surface temperature in 2016 was 1° C warmer than in the 20th century, making it the hottest year recorded. IPCC reports states that temperature rise since 1950s has clearly resulted from human activities. Excessive burning of fossil fuel has disrupted climate regulation adversely. While every country is heading towards economic prosperity, energy demand and fossil fuel combustion is escalating – collectively degrading the environment. Thus, the only alternative to curb the situation is by green energy solutions, i.e. use of renewable energy technologies such as solar, wind, biomass and hydroelectricity.
Rivers originating from snowy mountains along with those which originating from the mid-hill region and Siwalik region have bountiful potential of producing hydroelectricity — 83,000 MW as said by Hari Man Singh 50 years ago. However, the topographical and economic features restrict the production capacity to up to 40000 MW. If surplus energy from hydropower could be produced in the near future, it will not only be sufficient for the country but can also be traded with neighboring economic giants, India and China. The increasing global pressure to switch into green energy therefore provides ample opportunity for Nepal to pave its way into the international market.
The geographically diverse terrain has been both asset and liability for the development of the energy sector in the country. Most parts of the country are rural settings and scattered settlements depriving communities’ access to modern energy. Rural people still possess traditional lifestyle where fuel wood is the major source of cooking. According to Economic Survey 2016/17, the share of traditional fuel sources i.e. firewood, agriculture residue and cow dung, consumption was 74.5% in first eight months of fiscal year 2016/17, which is three fourths of the total energy consumption. Alongside, demand for petroleum products has been on the rise, making Nepalese economy more dependent. The daily average import of petrol alone has been reaching 1008.1 KL this year till date.
Furthermore, the country’s hydroelectric potential is still questionable as the production is just 961.2 MW while the energy demand in the fiscal year 2016/17 reached 1444.06 MW, suffering from an energy deficit by 482.9 MW. Thus, as an alternative solution, solar and wind energy can be a milestone in providing renewable energy after hydroelectricity in remote areas.
According to Solar and Wind Energy Resource Assessment in Nepal conducted in 2008, considering 10% of area with more than 300 watt/m2 WPD (Wind Power Density), 3000 MW of electricity can be generated from wind energy. Likewise, from the concentrating solar power, if 2% of the area is taken as suitable for the power generation there is possibility of generating about 1830 MW. In addition, there is also a possibility to generate about 2100 MW from grid connected PV if power generation per square kilometer is considered to be 50 MW with 2% of the land area as suitable for power generation. However, this is yet to be achieved.
Furthermore, Nepal being an agriculture based country; traditional cooking style can gradually be replaced by biogas plant installation, heading towards clean cooking solutions. Government is already providing subsidy for such plant installations. Until the first eight months of 2016/17, 957 KW electricity has been generated from micro hydroelectricity projects, 9291 solar home systems have been installed, and 15707 biogas plants have been installed. Till date 26 MW electricity has been generated from micro-hydro projects. Nepal also has great potential for Pico hydropower because of its rural setting.
Although the share in carbon emission is negligible, Nepal is ranked as the fourth vulnerable country to climate change impacts. Most of the hydropower projects in Nepal are based on run-of-the-river type and due to changing climate most of them are drying up. Even the glacier is melting at a high rate and effects of alteration in water cycle and rainfall patterns on rivers have put a big question mark on the sustainability of electricity generation.
Realizing the need of RE development for economic development as well as for combating climate change impacts, Nepal is a signatory to Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) in 2011 which holds targets to achieve accessible and efficient energy and promoting renewable energy by 2030. Sustainable Development Goals have included the targets of SEforALL in its seventh goal. Thus investments are centered on renewable/ alternative energy so as to achieve SDG that aims to increase the share of renewable energy in global energy mix substantially by doubling the global energy efficiency rate by 2030.
Most significantly, Nepal complies with Paris Agreement on Climate Change which came into force since November 4, 2016. The system for allocating and spending budget in line with climate code has been initiated and RE promotion has been given high priority in order to meet energy needs in Nepal. As compared to the past fiscal year 2015/16, there is an increase in use of renewable energy by 0.8% this year and about 16% of the total population have access to energy through renewables.
Pandey is an environment graduate and a student of economics.
A version of this article appears in print on July 31, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.