Red tape and overlapping jurisdiction between municipal, provincial and national government make the entire approval process more arduous than the construction itself. Likewise, almost 99% of the land in Mustang is government-owned, and buying or leasing it requires official approval, which could also take years. Without resolving these issues, it will be difficult to attract investment, domestic or foreign.
The onus is on the federal government to come up with a solution, and with a two-thirds majority in Parliament, the ruling party has an historic opportunity to move fast. One solution could be to replicate the successful model of the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI), a central government undertaking formed under the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy dedicated to developing large-scale, grid-connected solar and wind projects. Registered as a power trader, its role is to auction and manage solar and wind farms.
SECI develops large-scale projects then auctions them to independent power producers (IPPs) to build, own and operate. SECI then signs 25-year deals with the lowest bidders, buying the power from them and selling it to state electricity-distributing companies at a nominal premium. The SECI model is a win-win for IPPs and utilities, which do not have to spend time and resources to develop projects, while utilities get electricity at a competitive rate due to the bidding process.
Exporting electricity is arguably our biggest opportunity to reduce the trade deficit with India, and together with hydropower we must also pick the low hanging fruits of solar and wind energy. If we want to do it big and quick, we must develop gigawatt-scale wind and solar projects in Mustang, where it is realistic to generate and export 3,000MW of solar and wind power within five years.
Kushal Gurung is CEO of WindPower Nepal and head of the Energy Development Council.