Despite all these moves, there was still a shortfall in electricity and Ghising filled this gap with imports from India through the Dhalkebar-Muzaffarpur transmission line. But as NEA’s own hydropower plants and private producers started coming online, imports have declined steadily from 35% of total supply for the past five years to 22% this year.
This year’s power import from India also dropped because of the COVID-19 lockdown, which reduced domestic demand for electricity, and increased production from Nepal’s own run-of-the-river power plants due to a vigorous monsoon.
With the completion of the 453MW Upper Tama Kosi this year, import from India is expected to drop further, even though there will have to be some power import to meet winter demand spike. Nepal’s monsoon surplus is expected to grow further in the coming years which is why Ghising has been publicly appealing to Nepalis to switch to induction stoves for cooking, and was opposed to the hefty new tax on electric vehicles announced by Finance Minister Yubaraj Khatiwada in this year’s budget.
NEA’s revenue has also gone up because of a hike in tariff, despite which demand has also gone up. NEA’s customers have increased by 1.3 million in the past four years, and there has been an annual increase of 20% in electricity demand in that period.
Aside from all these measures, Ghising’s main achievement in the past four years has been his ability to dismantle the political-business nexus that created an artificial shortage in electricity that allowed a black market to flourish. NEA’s previous heads, dispatchers, and their political patrons all benefited from this scam.
At one point in the winter of 2016 when Nepal was reeling from the aftermath of the earthquake and the Indian Blockade, Nepalis were getting only six hours of electricity a day. Collusion between NEA officials and industrialists was allowing 315MW of cheap electricity to be diverted to businesses at a time when Nepal was only producing 750MW.
Ghising is an outstanding manager with the simultaneous ability to be both a good cop and bad cop. He used his connections with high ranking NCP officials to deflect pressure from those who tried to discredit him. And he could go to the grassroots to convince locals to let transmission lines and substations in Lalitpur, Kabeli corridor, Kulekhani, or Ramechhap that had been delayed for decades due to opposition.
Last year, Ghising went to Rasuwa to personally threaten local contractors who were delaying the construction of a substation critical to evacuating electricity generated by power plants on the Trisuli River. A video of him berating the contactors went viral on social media, further raising his public esteem.