September 20: Nepal's hydropower generation capacity is 83,000 megawatts with investment potential of 42,000 megawatts. The current installed capacity of hydropower in Nepal has reached 3000 megawatts.
Meanwhile, the solar energy sector has a potential to produce 30,000 megawatts of electricity but various projects are in different stages of harnessing only 1,000 megawatts of solar energy. That is just 3.33 percent of the total capacity.
Apart from that, the number of individual solar panels kept for household purposes is also decreasing.
Hydropower production on the other hand is increasing every year. However, the consumers are facing problems despite increase in hydro electricity generation.
In the past, load-shedding schedule used to be published by specifying a certain time from power cuts. At that time, solar energy and inverters were used as alternative energy. After FY 2074/75 load-shedding gradually ended and many people now do not have solar backup and inverter except for a limited number of people. Even though the electricity production capacity has doubled compared to a few years ago, its supply is getting erratic.
Consumers complain that they are facing problems in electricity supply at present when the installed capacity has reached 3,000 megawatts than the time when the production capacity was only 1500 megawatts.
Lights going on and off has become a common problem now while there is not enough power to run appliances that consume a lot of electricity, such as fans, ACs, motors. Sometimes the entire electrical system of the house breaks down due to high voltage power supply, according to the electricity users.
Experts in the energy sector say that if the quality of electricity does not improve in Nepal, the demand for solar energy, which was in good demand in Nepal 7/8 years ago, may increase again.
Due to more sophisticated solar panels than in the past, it is now possible to generate electricity that a household requires at a low cost. In the past, even if someone put solar panels on the roof of a house, it would produce electricity that was not sufficient for a household. However, new technology nowadays has helped developed solar panels that can generate electricity even if the solar panel is placed only on one corner of the house and not on the entire roof. This year, due to climate change, the global temperature has increased. An increase in temperature means an increase in demand for energy.
Solar situation in Nepal
According to the National Statistics Office, 429,141 households out of 6,660,841 households in Nepal are using alternative energy. That is 6.6 percent of the total households. In 2011, the number of households using solar energy was more than 7 percent. Apart from that, 82,418 households do not have access to electricity. The data shows that their houses do not even have solar energy.
1000 MW of solar development
During the last 3 years, solar projects with a capacity of 1000 megawatts have reached different stages in Nepal. Out of that, 12 solar projects have already started generating 58 megawatts of electricity. During the last 3 years, thousands of investors are looking for opportunities in this area as power generation has started from 12 projects.
Currently, 2 projects with a capacity of 5 MW have submitted an application to the Department of Electricity Development seeking permission for construction of solar power plants. Similarly, four projects with a capacity of 141 MW have submitted application to the department seeking for survey permission. Likewise, 14 projects with a capacity of 99 MW have received permission for construction, while 40 projects with a capacity of 705 MW have received survey license. After all, it seems that 1000 megawatt solar projects are in various stages.
With solar, there is no need for a reservoir project
In a place like Nepal where there are a lot of projects based on run of the river flow, solar energy is very important for energy mix. However, energy expert Dr Sandeep Shah says the government did not bring policies accordingly.
Today, the share of solar energy in India has reached 24 percent, but in Nepal it has not even reached 1 percent. However, the government has adopted a policy to keep the share of solar energy at 10 percent for energy mix. But the production of solar electricity has been lagging far behind because the government has not been able to work as per its commitment.
If Nepal could produce more solar energy, the amount of electricity that Nepal has to import from India in winter could have been greatly reduced.