Small is beautiful
If the Rural Energy Development Programme Plan (REDP) succeeds in turning Baglung into a model energy village, by 2009, every corner of this hilly district will light up. By 2010, the project, jointly funded by UNDP and World Bank, will spill across 15 more districts, covering 40 districts in all. According to an REDP report, the big idea is to develop a “mini-grid by inter-connecting all the micro hydro systems to each other and their eventual connection to national grid.” The micro hydro projects in Baglung are expected to generate over one mega watt of electricity, no mean amout by any stretch.
The REDP project shows how small, decentralised renewable energy systems are as capable as the mega hydroelectricity projects (if not more) of meeting the energy needs of rural Nepalis; besides, it will reduce dependence on fossil fuels. If most of the country’s energy needs can be met through these small-scale projects, the bigger ones could
be harnessed for energy export. Right out of EF Schumacher’s book, the REDP has come up with a winning idea. If all goes according to script, the illuminated hills and mountains of Nepal will be no light rubuke of Nepali bureaucrats and foreign donors who have focused on mega hydroelectricty projects, leading to waste and corruption, while making the Nepalis pay some of the highest electricty tarrifs in the world.