Nepal | June 01, 2020

Solar and energy management: Pros and cons

Pramod Raj Pokharel
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The most feasible solar intervention is through 11 kV feeders. For that pick NEA approved about 300 numbers of high loss 11 kV feeders with peak load in the range of 1 MW to 2 MW

Solar PowerRecent initiations from the government to make roof-top solar installation mandatory in future buildings of government, public, corporate and commercial enterprise is taken as a good move. GoN officials have also started discussions with ADB and others to work out a plan for immediate installation of bulk solar plants. These initiations are coming amid when Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli recently announced to rid the country of power outage within a year and for this a 200 MW capacity solar power installation together with other energy mixes are under serious considerations.

In the past also Nepal through various policy papers reflected its verdict to bring solar harvesting into its main energy stream to resolve prolonged energy crisis. Clause 60 of Budget Speech FY 2014/15 is particularly mentionable here – that provisioned surplus energy sale to NEA from one kw or more solar installation on the roof-tops of Nepalese urban area. Unfortunately, like others it also faded out in policy papers and once again our inability got exposed to forge an energy policy.

To understand this one needs to see the dynamics of change. Change in its essence has both supportive and opposing forces. Breakthrough against opposing inertia only brings changes; otherwise the prevailing condition suppresses the intended change. Intended change needs some sort of forces to guide its process and some of the forces are purely for domain alignment.

With domain alignment one has to understand NEA and its ally’s perspective in a large scale solar energy hunt in Nepal. Realizing the massive investment in Upper Tamakoshi HPP, the present electricity hunger of the nation is the only back-up plan ensuring
Upper Tamakoshi’s return of investment in case of Dhalkebar – Muzaffarpur cross boarder TL link
disruption. By ignoring this bitter truth, one can’t possibly manage the present
energy crisis in a short span of time.

Proper management is largely using common sense consciously and the most important thing is to read and analyze the situation. Nepali energy sector has many pros and cons.
A shrewd management finds both pros and cons equally important as its resources. Hence, it’s the right time to use pros of Nepalese energy sector to sort out alignment problems with NEA and its allies. In the present context where urban Nepali kitchens, due to recent the Indian blockade have started shifting its load from LPG to electricity and the future consequences on NEA’s system losses with its longer radial feed system is well predicted above 35%, NEA’s low quality distribution infrastructure is the perfect platform for solar intervention.

Firstly, in the present context where NEA supply system is highly congested and needs thorough up-gradation, the best way is to create local generation as much as possible to meet local energy demand. And this is in line with the universal acceptance of the best loss reduction strategy – “avoid transporting much from distance”. Despite cost constraints, hybrid model of Solar – Optimized Hydro provides the best natural battery system with incomparable reliability and outputs in many folds.

So if someone suggests a bulk solar installation in the range of 50 MW to 200 MW in Nepal it will be a blunder mainly because of three reasons. Firstly, it does not help at all in system loss reduction across highly congested longer radial feed distribution systems. Secondly, proper solar mapping may suggest solar installation in the area far from the load center and area having difficulty in power evacuation. And thirdly, as solar is space intensive large scale solar harvesting always gives a big challenge for proper space management.

Solar provides the opportunity for the best mode of distributed generation concept. Roof-tops of individual households are the ideal places for small scale installations where drops make the ocean concept can be materialized.

However, capacity of NEA distribution feeders is not like that of developed countries to cope with the massive possible solar injections if allowed in urban and peri-urban areas. Hence, it is not the right time to allow individual household based solar injection in Nepal.

As comprehensive distribution system reinforcement works through conventional approach costs significant amount of investment and the process is never ending, it’s time to think differently and to use the existing infrastructure as much as possible. The best alternative is to think opposite of radial feed system and go for hybrid system with distributed generation from renewable sources like solar and optimized hydro.

Hence, the most feasible solar intervention is through 11 kV feeders. For that pick NEA approved about 300 numbers of high loss 11 kV feeders with peak load in the range of 1 MW to 2 MW. Feed 25-50 kW solar injections in 20 to 30 different places along the feeder length.

Thus, each feeder if gets 50% of its supply from this distributed generation concept, at least in day time (except highly cloudy day) one can ensure uninterrupted electricity supply in these feeders. Making these feeders on-line in terms of energy feed and energy consumptions at least up-to distribution transformer levels will enable Nepal to launch a new era of energy management. And the most awaited in Nepal is the energy efficiency in supply side through energy contracting models and Energy Service Companies (ESCOs).

A version of this article appears in print on December 29, 2015 of The Himalayan Times.

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