How did it all begin?
Remember the time you first heard about Load Shedding?
Back then, it was a problem since you couldn’t watch your favorite shows on time. But it was all good since your parents wouldn’t be able to watch the news too.
For a long time, power cutoff was the excuse for failing to submit assignments and works in the offices. But it became a major issue after 2006 when Nepal fell in the grips of the biggest millennium crisis till date.
Nepal was once considered the second richest country in water resources after Brazil. The water resources also accounted to the largest generation of electricity until 2005.
But Nepal faced issues in generating required electricity for the general consumption after 2005. It was due to the following reasons:
- dried up river sources,
- failure of hydropower projects,
- increasing population, and
- building of infrastructures at the cost of overexploitation of resources.
Load Shedding in the context of Nepal
Following two-hours of power outage in 2006 , Nepal also faced a twenty-hour long load-shedding schedule in 2011. It was the biggest problem for the citizens back then. And it was also a failure on the part of Nepal Electricity Association (NEA), policymakers and other national authorities.
Load-shedding also impeded the pace of national development in Nepal. The industries of any scale found it hard to operate, many of them even shutting down.
The general electricity consumption wasn’t met by the national production. It resulted into importing electricity from India. According to CIA World Factbook 2019, Nepal ranks 58 out 118 countries for importing electricity from India. Nepal imported 2.175 billion kWh from India, which as you can imagine is unsustainable. And it also puts an economic burden on the nation.
Due to the load shedding problem besetting in Nepal for years, people started seeking alternatives to meet their demands. With that, the market of emergency light, inverter, generator, and power banks boomed as well. But Nepal outsourced these equipments from abroad. This meant massive outflow of national currency.
On May 13, 2018, Nepal Electricity Association (NEA) declared Nepal, load-shedding free. It was the most successful and appreciated initiative by the Managing Director of NEA, Kulman Ghising.
The impact of load-shedding created a huge threat to:
- the environmental settings,
- carrying capacity of the natural resources,
- social acceptance,
- economic viability of the nation, and
- sustainable development.
Apart from this, the major problem of load-shedding were the factories and industries. Only manual labor wasn’t enough for the factories and industries. It also required tools and machineries for mass production.
For the daily operation of the factories and industries, they required generators. Generators tend to consume a lot of fuel. Importing POL (Petroleum, Oil and Lubricants) products from other countries only added to the operation cost. The cost of importing the POL could have been saved in the absence of load shedding.
Power leakages have always been one of the major issues with the electricity supply in Nepal. Due to power leakages prevalent in the country, 30 MW of electricity is lost during distribution. (Source:Nepali Times)
Power pilferage (stealing) and tariff evaders also contribute to the problems in the small areas. There is limited power supply in these areas in the first place. Thus, the people and businesses in such areas have to face longer power outages due to growing power leakages.
Involvement of authorities like NEA in the controversy of corruption and scams, created quite a sensation in Nepal. This resulted in installation of substandard transformers in various parts of Nepal.
Importing and use of fake transformers with high influx was an extra challenge in the already troubled power sector. Transformers with high flux, aren’t tolerant to high loads and explode which can be a major threat for electrocution and fire.
NEA also has to spend a lot on maintenance and re-installation of transformers. Thus the mechanism of NEA itself is impeding and needs to be brought on track.
Solutions of Load-shedding in Nepal
The current initiative of NEA brought into practice is a perfect example of the effectiveness of :
- local authorities, and
- The civil societies.
Earlier, venal motives to approach the businesses and commercialization of the power supply were responsible for the load shedding problems in Nepal.
But, NEA and the Government worked hard to track the pilferers and the tariff evaders. And that has made significant changes in the power sector.
Better management strategies should be adopted for the distribution of electricity. Power from the areas that need less volume of power supply, can be channelled to the areas that are in need of more volume of power supply.
Transformers can be compared through set criteria and standards. This helps in detecting substandard transformers and its replacement. Such comparison assures sustainability and the cost-effective operation of the transformers. This is helpful, as it meets the set standards along with the control of power leakages.
Hydropower projects and installation of solar panels must be set as a national priority. Why? Because it is a convenient alternative against non-renewable energy sources. Hydel (hydropower) projects must be backed by national and foreign investments as well. Such developmental projects ensure participation on the basis of inclusiveness. It also involves transparency that can bridge the gap between authorities and local communities.
What it means now?
Thankfully, the authorities have taken the above mentioned solution strategies into account. Their initiative of building a load-shedding free country is also successful in the recent context.
Uninterrupted supply of electricity is as an addition to the development infrastructure of a nation. It also adds to the living to the living standard of the people or convenient living at the very least.
Lalitpur is vulnerable to frequent load shedding if the locals continue obstructing the electricity distribution project. (Source:onlinekhabar, May 2019)
Dissatisfied with NEA’s project of Thankot-Chapagaun-Bhaktapur 132 KV transmission line, the local people opened a knot of one of the towers, causing other towers to fall down as well.
Even though the project was launched 20 years ago, it still faces the chances of failure. The best alternative to this could be:
- the proper consultation of the concerned authorities with the public,
- conducting a needs assessment, and
- establishing a common ground to pacify the locals and their reason for obstruction.
After the successful “Load shedding free Nepal” project, Government aimed to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) in the recent held Investment Summit,2019. And they are also planning on initiating the project of distributing electricity in every nook and corner of the country by 2020.
As we can see, Government is taking on the best efforts to ensure a literal “bright future” for us. So the public should also be reliable and accountable to the maintenance and regulation of such infrastructures. Only then can Nepal lean on a sustainable development and a safe future.
So let’s bid farewell to the pitch black past and welcome a bright future ahead!