Meanwhile, NEA has started supplying electricity this week through its 132kV Bardaghat-Sari transmission line to supply 30MW of power to Hongshi Cement Nepal-China joint venture in Nawalparasi. There is hope that more will follow, but so far Hongshi looks like the exception.
The NEA has cited delays in building substations and transmission lines as the reason why it cannot distribute surplus electricity during the monsoon, leading to its wasteful ‘spill’. It has blamed private landowners haggling over compensation for transmission lines over their property and lengthy legal battles for the delays.
“All planned transmission lines under construction across the country should have been completed within two years, but there is a lot of local opposition,” says NEA spokesperson Suresh Bahadur Bhattarai. “If only these pylons could be laid, we could reach customers and not have to waste a single watt.”
However, others blame the scarcity of electricity on policymakers who prefer to export electricity rather than expand and expedite transmission lines and substations to increase access within Nepal.
“It is like selling food to a neighbour while your own family goes hungry,” says water resource expert Ratna Sansar Shrestha. “We would have earned much more by increasing electricity consumption in the country and reducing the use of fossil fuels. This is the result of a three-decade-long ‘grand design’ by the Nepal government to earn profit by exporting electricity instead of building infrastructure within the country.”
NEA could actually earn more from selling power domestically instead of exporting it. Nepal’s private industries are paying up to Rs11 per unit in electrical bills, while the average price of electricity sold to India is just Rs4.33 per unit.
Environmental campaigner Bhushan Tuladhar agrees that successive governments have failed to increase domestic electricity consumption by either not having the transmission lines to take it to load centres, or pricing it too high. He asks: “Why has the government not taken any steps to operate trolleybuses and electric public transportation despite having included it in multiple five-year plans?”
He adds that the government has failed to form an environment protection and climate change management committee even though it made a promise to do so years ago.
Adds Tuladhar: “When the government fails to build proper infrastructure and a strategic plan to increase electricity consumption for Nepali industries, transportation and households, it is left with no choice but to export it.”
Translated from the original by Shristi Karki.
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