Nepal sets to benefit much from the ADB's new energy policy if the government can get its act together

With climate change now becoming a global phenomenon and a major concern of every country, the new energy policy of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to promote the low-carbon transition in Asia and the Pacific is most welcome. In particular, its commitment not to fund new coal-fired power and heating plants is laudable. There is a need to cut the production of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas in the world by more than half in the coming decade so that global warming does not reach dangerous levels. This is necessary if the world is not to add to the total amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere by 2050. Apart from promoting clean energy, the new energy policy also envisages supporting universal access to reliable and affordable energy services. Although access to energy has expanded in Asia and the Pacific, about 150 million people still have no access to electricity while about 350 million people do not have access to adequate supply, according to the ADB.

The five principles of ADB's 2021 Energy Policy include securing energy for a prosperous and inclusive Asia and the Pacific through support to its developing member countries (DMC) for electrification programmes, promoting clear cooking, heating and cooling, and improving energy efficiency; building a sustainable and resilient energy future by helping its DMCs to increase energy efficiency, deploying more renewable and low-carbon energy, and support to a planned phase-out of coal in the region; supporting institutions, private sector participation and good governance; promoting regional cooperation and integration; and integrated cross-sector operations to maximise development impact through combined knowledge, partnerships and ADB's country-focussed approach. Asia, home to half of the world's population, is the engine of world economic growth in the 21st century, and this coupled with rapid urbanisation will require the generation of vast amounts of electricity. As per the International Energy Agency, the installed electricity-generating capacity of Asia and the Pacific would need to increase by 80 per cent, from 3,386 gigawatts in 2019 to 6,113 gigawatts by 2030, or an increase of 7 per cent per year.

Nepal sets to benefit much from the ADB's new energy policy if the government can get its act together.

The ADB has given priority to expanding essential energy access in the poorest and most vulnerable countries through greater use of low-carbon and renewable energy sources. With its huge water resources as well as wind and solar power, vast amounts of energy can be produced to meet not only local consumption needs but also for export. Nepal's immediate neighbour India is currently grappling with an energy crisis, just like China, due to a shortage of coal. And it has an obligation, under the 2015 Paris climate agreement, to reduce its carbon footprint by about 35 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030. In the South Asian region, Nepal could export power not only to India but also to Bangladesh, another rising Asian economy. But before energy from Nepal can be evacuated to these countries, negotiations as well as the required structures, such as high voltage transmission lines, have to be built.

Groundwater plan

Groundwater level has been depleting in the Kathmandu Valley because of its excessive exploitation to meet domestic and industrial needs. The water crisis in the Valley could have been resolved for some years to come had the Melamchi Drinking Water Project been able to supply water from its system.

But sad to say, it failed do so due to the natural disaster that occurred in its headworks in the second week of June. The concerned agencies have not been able to meet the water demand in the Valley due to growing population and construction spree every year.

In order to increase the groundwater table in the Valley, the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) has come up with the concept of 'Kathmandu Recharge Programme, 2021' through its rainwater harvesting plan. The KMC will identify potential areas and their capacity for rainwater harvesting and recharge system inside the metropolis. If all the government buildings and private houses cooperate with the KMC, it will not be a big deal to replenish the groundwater level in the Valley. The surrounding hills in the capital can be the best source of rainwater harvesting, which can be used for drinking purpose and also discharging excess water into the river system.

A version of this article appears in the print on October 22, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.