Nepal has been blessed in many ways. One of our blessings is our immense hydroelectricity potential. This potential emanates from over 6,000 rivers of all sizes providing about 210 billion cubic meters of water annually that cascades down the large elevation difference over a relatively short distance. In addition, Nepal also has a huge solar potential. With a fairly good solar radiation of over 300 days a year, there are claims that Nepal’s solar potential is many times more than its hydro potential. Furthermore, we also have the potential to generate electricity from sustainable biomass, wind, and possibly other indigenous renewable energy sources. Acknowledging energy as one of the important drivers of Nepal’s vision for long-term rapid, sustainable, and Nepal’s immense electricity generating potential, could we convert all or most of our energy use to electricity?
In Nepal, the domestic energy consumption continues to exceed its consumption in the productive sectors like transport, industry, commerce, and agriculture. Energy use in the domestic sector is mainly for lighting, heating, cooling, and operating electrical and electronic appliances. The main uses of energy in industries are for process heating, motive power, boilers, and lighting. In the transport sector, energy is used mostly for road transport and aviation. Energy consumption in the commercial sector, which includes academic and health institutions, offices, shops, hotels and restaurants, is small but rapidly growing. Energy use in the agricultural sector is mainly for powering irrigation pumps and processing.
Biomass continues to be the main source of fuel in the residential sector. Traditional stoves are inefficient and smoky. The adverse impact on health, especially of women and children, is well documented. Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) is the main cooking fuel in the urban areas and is also making rapid inroads into rural households. Coal-fired boilers, followed by motive power, and process heating dominate the industrial sector energy consumption. Electricity provides only about a fourth of the total industrial energy consumed, which is mostly for running electric motors and for lighting. Biomass and coal are used for boiler ignition and heating. The use of petroleum products dominates in the transport sector. Biomass and petroleum products are used for cooking and heating, and electricity for lighting and electrical equipment in the commercial sector. Energy for the agricultural sector mostly comes from petroleum products and electricity.
Given this situation, can we switch our cooking fuel from traditional and LPG to electricity in both our domestic and commercial sectors? Could we convert all our industrial energy use in heating, cooling, and motive power to electricity too? Can we have all or most of our private and public vehicles, railways and ropeways running on electricity? Could all our tilling, water pumping, processing and storage required in our agricultural sector use just electricity? Furthermore, can we work towards using electricity in the most efficient manner? In fact, we will need to incorporate energy efficiency into all aspects of electricity generation, transmission, distribution and use in all sectors.
If we could, we can reap many benefits. Our kitchens would be cleaner and pollution free. Our health would improve. In addition, cutting down use of traditional fuel would help in reducing deforestation, and freeing animal dung for agricultural use. Reducing use of fossil fuels would have immense environmental and also economic benefits for the country. Rapidly increasing electricity generation within the country would dramatically improve our energy security and also contribute to the country’s economic growth through industrial stimulation and job creation.
However, we have to acknowledge that there will be many challenges on the way. Some of these include weak governance and institutional structures, irrational incentives and insufficient investment-friendly institutional and policy mechanisms. Proactive and innovative policy formulation and implementation will be needed to address sectoral challenges related to policy incoherence and unpredictability, cumbersome and time-consuming bureaucratic procedures, inadequate financing, inadequate human resources, gender and social exclusion and technological and socio-economic appropriateness and affordability.
However, given the immense benefits we could achieve from effectively harnessing and utilizing our immense in-country electricity-generating potential in all aspects of our society, I am sure the challenges will be worth addressing head-on. Who knows, it may also help us to achieve a prosperous and inclusive Nepal which we have only dared to dream about till now.