As Kulman Ghising takes charge as the executive director of Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) for the second time, hopes are high that he will fix many of the anomalies confronting the energy sector as he did during his first tenure. He had retired from his post 10 months ago, despite the people's expectation that he would be allowed to continue as NEA's executive director. Ghising had become a national icon after he put an end to the long hours of load shedding, lasting up to 18 hours a day, within a year of being assigned to the post at NEA in 2016. By the time he had completed his four-year stint at NEA, he had not only made power outage history, but also had the government entity generating a profit of more than Rs 11.5 billion after having cleared all accumulated losses worth Rs 28 billion.
NEA can play a big role in plugging cooking gas imports by encouraging the use of efficient electric cook stoves
This time around, though, the challenges Ghising faces are of a different nature. Although Nepal's hydropower projects are running at full capacity and new power projects like the Tamakhoshi have come online, power supply is irregular, with lights going out every now and then. There is already a surplus of energy during the wet season, and it could go to waste if either its consumption cannot be increased in the country or exported to neighbouring countries.
Power plants are also coming up faster than the completion of transmission lines, preventing the evacuation of energy to the market. Ghising is aware of all this, and he told a programme organised in his honour the other day that he had accepted the biggest challenge of his life in being reappointed to the post. His priorities include improving service delivery by strictly implementing good governance, increasing power consumption and managing its market, making power supply regular, and completing the power plants and transmission and distribution projects that are under construction.
During Ghising's first tenure in office, NEA was able to free up a lot of energy for the common consumers by reducing power leakage and theft. A similar campaign must start immediately as power theft is said to have increased in recent months. The new government has announced a series of programmes to enhance energy consumption in the country. The government is providing free electricity to families that consume only 20 units a month. Similarly, it is planning to provide heavy concessions to the farmers in a bid to uplift the agriculture sector and its productivity.
It must, however, see to it that such populist measures do not adversely impact NEA's earnings.
But with electricity being generated more than it can consume at the moment, the NEA can play a big role in plugging cooking gas imports by encouraging the use of efficient electric cook stoves on a massive scale. Nepal spends more than Rs 35 billion annually on importing liquefied petroleum gas more than half of which is consumed by the residential sector. Similarly, to encourage electric vehicles in the country, the government must set up charging stations at different places of the capital to begin with.
The expectations from Ghising are high, and if he is to deliver on them, he needs cooperation from all quarters and a term that will last the next four years.
It is shameful that 13 police personnel should be found guilty of leaking the question papers set for the Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test (Pre- SAT) prepared by the UN Section. Those who succeed in making through the Pre-SAT are eligible for SAT, which almost guarantees a cop a place in the UN Peacekeeping Mission. A seven-member panel led by DIG Basant Lama of the Police Department had investigated the scam and found 13 police personnel to be directly involved in leaking the question papers well before the exam started. Of them, three police personnel will be liable to dismissal from service.
Leakage of the question papers came to light during the second day of the exams conducted on July 31 when 2,400 police personnel, ranging from constables to SSPs, were appearing for the test at the Nepal Police Headquarters and all seven provincial police offices. Leaking of a question paper is a serious crime, and nobody should be spared. Those found guilty by the probe panel should be punished as per the law of the land. Such a scam taking place at the Nepal Police Headquarters will surely tarnish its image in the UN Peacekeeping Mission that deploys hundreds of police personnel every year.
A version of this article appears in the print on August 13 2021, of The Himalayan Times.