Before going to bed, our grandmothers always soaked lentils and beans in water overnight to save energy. The next morning, they put the soaked beans in the sun to pre-heat the water, then wrapped it all up in a clean white cloth and boiled it one pot. The product was tasty, but more importantly, the process saved energy.
Today, we change light bulbs to LED, get ‘five star’ energy efficient refrigerators, use rice cookers and induction stoves. All this also has a lot to do with saving energy, just like our grandmothers.
At a recent event organised by the Town Development Fund (TDF) for local government leaders to help them plan electricity usage, conduct energy audits and look at financing options for local energy efficiency, it became clear that a watt saved was not a watt generated. It was two watts generated.
The reason energy saved is twice generated is the escalating costs of power projects, leakage, pilferage, system losses, over capacity of equipment, wastage, negligence, use of sub-standard equipment – all at the demand end.
Local governments have to pay for street lights, water and sewage pumping stations, buildings and offices, space heating and canteens, garbage collection and other vehicles. The bills add up quickly. With elected leadership in 753 local governments, energy saved will not just mean more energy for others but can also help meet more pressing needs.
From a fossil past to an electric future, Om Astha Rai
Generating more power by saving energy, Bishal Thapa
Some may argue that this is not on top of our priority list. In reality, given the escalating costs and the fact that many Nepalis depend on regular electricity supply, it would be the right thing to do.
The TDF is proposing an award for the most energy efficient local government. Only 3% percent of our energy needs comes from electricity, 10% from petroleum and the bulk from biomass. But no one has forgotten the Indian blockade and how it was used as a geopolitical bargaining chip. We can all do our part by conducting simple energy audits at home and our place of work to find where the leakages, wastage and inefficiencies are, and then invest in minimising them. The payback period for investment in energy efficiency is very quick.
Markets can and do change people’s behaviour. During difficult times like prolonged road strikes and natural disasters, every home looks for efficient ways to cook, light up, heat and pump. Experience tells us that shifting rooms to the north facing side of the house in summer and moving to the south in winter can mean a difference of 10o Celsius in indoor temperature. The challenge is to scale these ideas across a municipality or the whole country.
Land acquisition for building large hydropower projects cost money and time, building transmission lines is a complicated and expensive process. Add to this the cost of pilferage and leakage and it is clear that energy saved means energy generated multiplied by two.
Indeed, if we continue on the path we are on, this ratio could actually increase over time. This year, the Nepal Electricity Authority celebrated Tihar with lights and no power outage, but few knew it was because of electricity imports from India. This makes us more and more dependent geopolitically on our neighbour.
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Over the past decades, we have seen the emergence of companies that implement solar and biogas programs. The time is now right for companies that wish to do energy efficiency projects.
Oh, by the way. When was the last time you cleaned the windows to let more sunlight in, or whitewashed the darker walls of the house or office to enable a lower watt light bulb? Every watt counts.
Anil Chitrakar is President of Siddharthinc