Getting households to switch to electricity in the kitchen would slash import of cooking gas, which costs the country a whooping Rs 35 billion annually
Riding on the success of having ended load-shedding in the country and turned Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) into a profit-making public enterprise, the power utility company is now embarking on an ambitious plan to connect all 77 districts to the national grid within two years. About 21 per cent of the people in Nepal still have no access to the national grid. The national grid has yet to be expanded to many districts, especially in Karnali Province, Province 5 and Sudur Paschim in mid-west and far-west Nepal. In order to fund the electrification of some of the provinces through national grid connectivity, the government is roping in multilateral development agencies, such as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
The NEA has seen one success after another since Kulman Ghising took over as managing director in 2015-16. Once accustomed to power outages lasting upto 18 hours a day, load-shedding has become a thing of the past, even in the industrial sector. NEA’s profit last fiscal year was a whooping Rs 7.20 billion, an increase of 148 per cent over the previous year. This is the third year in a row that the company has generated a profit since Ghising took charge. And its cumulative losses have come down to Rs 15 billion today from Rs 34.60 billion just three years back. Together with Ghising, former minister of energy Janardan Sharma and the incumbent minister Barsha Man Pun should also be credited for pulling the NEA out of the red. Despite strong opposition by the politically-charged unions in the NEA to the reforms initiated by Ghising, the ministers refused to yield to their pressure or to that of other lobby groups. The reforms initiated in the NEA cut down on the technical and administrative expenses while reducing the price of imported and domestic power. Power projects that had failed to pick up pace for years have now been completed, such as Chameliya and Kulekhani III, while 60 MW of power from the Trishuli-3A project has just been fed to the national grid.
A number of new projects, both undertaken by the government and private sector, including the 456-MW Upper Tamakoshi, will start generating power in the near future. This is expected to create an energy surplus in the country, at least during the wet season. Against this backdrop, a plan for the proper utilisation of energy within the country and for export of surplus energy is necessary. Among others, electricity could be used in the country to give a boost to electric vehicles and cut down on the import of fossil fuels. This will first require the construction of numerous charging stations. Getting households to switch to electricity in the kitchen would also slash import of cooking gas, which costs the country a whooping Rs 35 billion annually in foreign exchange. As for energy trade with neighbours, with a number of cross-border transmission lines under construction, an amended power regulation by the Indian government last December and an agreement on energy banking, the prospect of exporting surplus energy to India and beyond to Bangladesh and Myanmar looks promising.
Hello Sarkar portal
Hello Sarkar portal is being expanded to all 753 local levels to address the grievances faced by the people in their respective areas. The grievance-hearing mechanism was set up at the Prime Minister’s Office in Singh Durbar in 2011 to provide easy access to the concerned authorities for lodging their complaints and grievances. The government had also launched Facebook and Twitter pages of Hello Sakar in 2014. People can also lodge their complaints and suggestions on social media pages of Hello Sarkar.
Recently the Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration has issued a circular to all the local levels to launch the portal with necessary details. The local levels will receive complaints through this portal and forward them to the concerned agencies and authorities for redressal. The local levels have been told to provide details about the number of wards, electrified wards, status of internet access, computerised wards and other needs of the local levels. This is a welcome move. The portal can also be a good platform for collecting information about the common problems faced by the people. However, the important thing is to address such grievances by the concerned agencies without delay.
A version of this article appears in print on August 20, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.