Nepal is on a trajectory to guarantee 100% electricity access in the next seven years by increasing generation capacity to 5,000MW from new hydropower plants.
This means per capita energy consumption will also increase from 245kWh to 700kWh in the next two years, and the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) wants to do this by promoting electric cooking, water heating, and electric cars.
While this target may mean Nepal’s surplus hydropower is used, reduce imports of LPG, spur economic development, and ensure better health by reducing indoor pollution, it will not be sustainable unless we also plan for the efficient use of that energy.
Energy efficiency means reducing energy consumption to perform the same task. This has many benefits: reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), lessening of energy demand and import, and lower cost for households and the country.
Look what’s cooking in Nepal, Anil Chitrakar
Even though the COVID-19 lockdown has reduced demand, and Nepal has a surplus this rainy season, last year it imported 37% of electricity from coal-fired plants in India Nepal is set to add another 1,300MW of generation capacity in the coming fiscal year.
Most of the inefficiency in energy use is in public buildings, industries, and households results in lost opportunities for potential cost savings – meaning money can be better spent on more productive areas. Saving energy is the same as building expensive new power plants.
Typically, up to 15% of energy savings can be achieved by taking advantage of low-hanging fruit such as lighting retrofit, tune-ups, and equipment adjustments. Similarly, 20-30% energy savings can be achieved with tighter control, equipment upgradation and optimisation. And up to 50% of energy can be saved by more capital intensive measures, such as equipment replacement and system redesign.
The Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation with technical assistance from the German agency GIZ has been promoting energy efficiency in Nepal since 2010 through the Nepal Energy Efficiency Program (NEEP) which helps the government adopt a policy framework, strengthen NEA’s power managing capability, establish a market for energy efficiency services and products, and add energy efficiency in university education and vocational training.
Mustering the energy to save, Anil Chitrakar
In 2019, the government prepared a National Energy Efficiency Strategy that recognises the importance of energy efficiency to achieve sustainable development goals (SDG) by 2030. It sets the goal to double the average improvement rate of energy efficiency in Nepal from 0.84% per year (achieved between 2000 to 2015) to 1.68% per year by 2030. It is an ambitious target, but even with this strategy we have a long way to go.
Instead of adopting this mammoth task at one go, it may be better to take small bites. Let’s take a top-down approach, making public buildings catalysts for energy-efficient practices and set the stage for market transformation throughout the economy. The buying power of three levels of government will transform the market for energy-efficient products.
The Alternative Energy Promotion Center (AEPC) has taken steps for energy efficiency in a few public institutions and engaged the private sector through consulting assignments. However, any energy efficiency strategy must have measurable goals and metrics with a specified timetable.
All this will need political will and strong support of senior government officials. But so far, despite adopting the strategy there is no evidence of it being taken seriously. It is important that initial policies are flexible, and the government could grant legal authority to federal, provincial, urban and rural municipalities to contract energy companies to implement efficiency of municipal buildings, street lights and other public infrastructure.
Government bodies can be made to pay their energy bills which will force them to reduce energy loss and be more efficient. Rewarding government bodies that have successfully adopted energy efficiency policies by providing incentives, recognition, allowing them to retain some of their cost savings can help facilitate the transition. These plans can also leverage co-benefits not just with cost savings, but also greenhouse gas emission reduction, improved comfort, health, and job creation.
A new energy mix for a New Nepal, Suraj Pandey