EDITORIAL: Energy for thought

Making electricity generation and trading simple, regular and transparent is a must if we were to become self-reliant in the power sector

After the green light from the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Energy is set to expedite the process to draft regulations related to the Electricity Regulatory Commission (ERC) Act, which was first conceptualised way back in 2004. Despite then Parliament on August 11 endorsing the ERC Act, the progress on formulating the regulations, however, has remained tardy so far. Even the Energy Prevention Action Plan issued by the government on February 18, 2016 incorporated the provision of formation of a high-level ERC Act. Despite having a huge potential in the hydropower sector, Nepal has been perennially starved for electricity. Electricity tariff in the country is one of the highest in South Asia, which is but a shame, as Nepal has always been touted as the “energy powerhouse” in the region. So far, the Nepal Electricity Authority is the sole body involved in generation, transmission and distribution of electricity. The private sector’s involvement in the energy sector has been limited to electricity generation only.

With no private players in all aspects of the energy market, there is virtually no competition. An all-powerful regulatory commission will not only effectively regulate the electricity market but also ensure supply reliability at reasonable pricing. Once the ERC Act comes into place, it can play a role of creating a level playing field for private energy producers that will not only generate electricity but will also involve in distribution and transmission, thereby easing the supply. Nepal has only recently come out of the so-called “dark age” when the country used to endure load-shedding up to 20 hours a day during dry season. The current generation capacity of the country barely meets today’s electricity demand. While the country is producing around 564-MW of electricity, it is importing 400-MW from India, with total supply capacity of 964-MW against the current demand of 1,300-MW. A study jointly published by the National Planning Commission and Investment Board Nepal in March last year made a forecast that Nepal’s energy demand would rise to 8,000-MW by 2030.

Making electricity generation and trading simple, regular and transparent is a must if we were to become self-reliant in the power sector. A regulatory commission at the top to provide an oversight could help in luring the private sector into electricity generation, transmission and distribution, which will benefit the consumers. The more the investment in the power sector, the more energy the country can have, which will strengthen Nepal’s capacity to export electricity, thereby opening the doors for foreign currency. A regulatory commission’s presence will also put an end to the irregularities that are often reported in the energy sector. One of the most important aspects, however, is the ERC to be formed should be an independent body. Government dominance over such a commission could defeat the whole purpose of putting in place. The government and the regulator need to work in tandem with constructive support to each other to serve the larger interest of ensuring electricity supply to consumers and taking care of investors. The progress towards setting up the ERC shows there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Revitalising TU

All constituent and affiliated colleges of Tribhuvan University (TU) across the country are required to switch to semester system for all master’s degree programmes from new academic session. Till now, only the colleges inside the Kathmandu Valley were running semester system. With this decision, TU will phase out the master’s degree programme under the annual system. TU Rector Sudha Tripathi said colleges will not be allowed to enroll more than 60 students in a class. Students’ attendance has also been made mandatory and students are required to complete assignments on time.

After this system comes into effect, academic environment will improve in all colleges, making the students and teachers focused only in research and academic activities. The semester system is common all over the world. But TU must synchronize its activities, including academic calendar, exam schedule, syllabus completion and credit transfer system to make the semester system fully functional. It offers more than 2,000 post-graduate programmes in various faculties. Recently, the country’s oldest university is losing its past glory due to over politics and poor management.