Nepal | December 02, 2020

EDITORIAL: Manage surplus power

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We need a plan to make full use of all available electricity in the country or look for ways to export it

In what is a milestone in Nepal’s hydropower development, the country’s first 400 kV substation at Dhalkebar has come into full operation since last week. With the completion of the project, seen as the backbone of Nepal’s power sector, reliable transmission of power from east to west of the country has now become feasible.

What’s more, the 400 kV Dhalkebar-Muzaffarpur cross-border transmission line – the country’s first-ever high voltage transmission line – has also come into operation, allowing upto 1,000 megawatts of power trade between the two countries.

As the major hub of power exchange between Nepal and India, the substation should ease the import of power from India as demand goes up while also exporting any surplus energy in Nepal. Ecstatic as one may be over what the completion of the Dhalkebar substation means for the country, it will, however, be some time before we may be able to reap the benefits. While it is supposed to connect the transmission of power across the country from east to west, this will be feasible only when a series of transmission lines under construction are completed at the earliest.

It makes little sense to be completing power projects on time and producing electricity when there are no transmission lines to evacuate the energy generated.

Currently, the energy sector has been suffering greatly due to the delay in the construction of the Kabeli Corridor, Koshi Corridor, Sunkoshi Corridor and Trishuli Corridor transmission lines, so necessary for the evacuation of hundreds of megawatts of power from projects being built both by the government and independent power producers.

The delay has often been due to obstructions by the local people demanding better compensation for the use of their land, at times by the local government seeking a change in the transmission line’s alignment altogether, and this year due to the lockdown that began in March, which halted work for months.

This year wasn’t a particularly good year for any sector of the country’s economy, including the energy sector, due to the COVID pandemic. With businesses, factories and the tourism industry — major consumers of electricity — closed down or only partly open, Nepal is facing an energy surplus but has no idea what to do with it.

As a result, Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) has been losing billions of rupees every month as electricity consumption has fallen sharply, badly affecting its revenue. One can only imagine what will happen should power from the soonto-be-completed projects be added to the national grid.

The government must, therefore, have a plan to make full use of all available electricity within the country or look for ways to export it. Domestic industries could be encouraged to use surplus power during the off-peak hours by selling them at subsidised rates.

In the households, encouraging the use of the induction cooker would save money that goes into importing LPG gas. Such cookers had gained immediate popularity in the aftermath of a cooking gas shortage after India enforced a blockage in 2015. And it is high time we promoted electrical vehicles (EVs) — two-wheelers, cars and buses — in the country by building charging stations in major cities. This will help curb import of POL products and save money.

Zoo to reopen

The Central Zoo located at Jawalakhel, which has been closed since March 23 due to the spread of the coronavirus, is all set to reopen soon by adopting the health protocols prescribed by the government.

Due to the closure of the country’s only zoo for almost eight months, zoo officials are facing financial problems in feeding the animals as revenue from the visitors, its main source of income, has almost dried up.

Zoo officials said they would come up with safety protocols that are applicable to both the visitors and animals. The number of visitors will be limited to 800 at a time, and they will be prevented from feeding and touching the animals. Use of face masks and physical distancing will be made mandatory for all the visitors. The zoo has also laid-off many staff due to the financial crisis.

Recently, the Lalitpur Metropolis provided financial help to manage the zoo where many endangered animals are kept. While it is a welcome move of the Central Zoo to reopen its facility, there should no compromise on the health and safety of the people and the animals. As COVID-19 cases are still rising in the Valley, the general public should also cooperate with the zoo officials.



A version of this article appears in print on November 19, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.

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