Maybe, an energizer

It has been about three months since the power crisis was declared by the government. The said measure was aimed to highlight the acute shortage of power in the country and also lay the foundation for a more speeded up pragmatic policies and programmes to increase the power output through various sources. It is evident that the country’s demand at present hovers around 800 MW but the supply is barely one-third of that. This has seen soaring power cuts amounting to 16 hours every day. The industries and even agriculture has been affected deeply. The whole anomaly that has crept up is because reliable and sincere attempts were not undertaken in the past and the fallout has become glaring this winter. The Koshi floods also played a minor role in obstructing the power import from India but which is now coming back to the earlier state. The envisaged 10000 MW production in a decade will meet the demands but achieving the target depends on many factors including the huge investment that is required for the hydel projects and the conducive power production policies and sincerity of the government.

Instant solution to the acute power shortage cannot come around because the gestation period for any type of power project is long. It is but natural that the government finds itself in a helpless situation. In order to alleviate the power scarcity, the cabinet meeting on Wednesday decided to go for some immediate measures. A top priority for the time being is the decision to import 500 MW of electricity from India. But, for the present transmission lines have to be upgraded which would require a minimum of four months before, hopefully, the additional power imports can be made for distribution in Nepal. It would also add to the expenditure burden on the country, which has also been taken into consideration for that huge amount of electricity to be imported. The government must be aware of the financial obligations that would have to met in order to make a huge import a reality. The government, in addition, is to run the non-functioning thermal plants at Duhabi (39 MW) and Hetauda (14 MW) which have been in limbo for so long.

Going for alternate energy sources, it has also been decided to dole out Rs.1.1 billion as subsidy for solar energy even in the so far disregarded urban centres. It is true that solar energy is a renewable source but the initial investment is the discouraging factor. With the subsidy provided as per definite criteria, more people would be attracted to installing solar panels in their homes. What should have been on the priority list earlier has belatedly been recognised. This shows that the government is not very firm-footed as far as deciding the means through which power production can be increased. Once it had the idea of establishing thermal plants with very big capacity but the investment factor together with all round criticism made it shelve the plan. Even in these three months since the power crisis was announced, it is only now that something of substance has been decided upon. The days ahead will be a testing time for the government to prove that the initiatives are not hollow.