D/dropcap]ismal winter rainfall, low snow melts from reduced ice cover and droughts have seen Nepal’s hydroelectricity sector produce just 460MW out of a total operational capacity of 1,418MW. This is because most of Nepal’s hydro plants are not of the storage type, but run-of-river schemes.
The Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) has therefore been importing up to 780MW from India to meet the demand shortfall of peak hours the spring. The Department of Hydrology and Meteorology reported just 15.4mm of rain in winter, which is only a fraction of the average of 60mm in November – February.
The pre-monsoon stretch of one March to 15 April was also drier than average, seeing just 19.6mm of rain. Besides causing unprecedented wildfires, the lack of rain also lowered the flow of rivers, reducing generation capacity.
“I rivers are drying up and investors are getting worried,” says Surya Prasad Adhikari of Hydropower Project Struggle Committee that represents power producers.
Small projects have been hit particularly hard, and Adhikari says 36 projects with capacity below 10MW are in serious financial trouble, while eight with capacity of 45MW are facing an emergency.
However, with the monsoon, there will be a different problem. Heavy rains and the completion of the 456MW Upper Tamakoshi will create an energy surplus and a ‘spill’ of 700MW that will be wasted.