December 6: Nepal is considered to be one of the best places in the world for solar energy production. However, stakeholders say that the country is lagging behind in the production of solar energy due to government’s apathy. According to a study, the average 'solar irrigation' around the world is 3.7 units per square meter. In Nepal it is 4.7 units per square meter. It means that Nepal has the capacity to produce 4.7 kilowatt units of solar energy per square meter per day.
Currently, only 15 projects, including that of Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), are producing about 100 megawatts of solar electricity commercially, as per the government data. Out of this, 25 MW is produced by NEA and the remaining energy by private sector solar projects.
Experts say that since Nepal receives 300 days of sunlight annually, there is a potential of producing 50,000 treta hours of solar energy every year. However, due to government’s neglect, Nepal is lagging far behind in the field of solar energy, says Kuber Mani Nepal, executive director of Ridi Hydropower Company. According to him, Nepal's climate is excellent for solar energy. Due to the lack of a clear government policy, our position is far behind compared to other neighboring countries.
In terms of solar energy production, China is now number one in the world. It is producing 367,710 megawatts of solar electricity annually. India ranks fourth in the world by producing 63,100 megawatts of solar energy. India is still making progress.
The NEA is currently purchasing electricity from solar projects at the rate of Rs 5.94 per unit. Earlier, when the energy crisis was announced in 2015, it purchased solar energy at Rs 9.61 per unit. At present, 40 projects with capacity of 750 MW have taken permission for survey of solar power generation in Nepal.
As per the experts, problems occur when NEA changes its policy several times. The NEA has repeatedly changed the process of entering into Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). Earlier in the year 2015, private sector solar companies had adopted a competitive process while entering into a PPA with the NEA. In 2017, the process was changed and the authority set the purchase price. Now the authority has gone back to the policy of open competition. Nepal says that the private sector companies producing solar energy are discouraged due to such a complicated process of the government.
Manoj Silwal, deputy executive director of NEA, said that since the authority itself produces 25 megawatts of solar energy and is promoting it, there is no obstacle from the authority's side. According to him, there are some shortcomings and said, “The authority is planning to gradually improve those shortcomings.”