Few days back, LPG industrialists threatened to strike raising various demands and soon after it was reported in the media consumers were taken by panic. Soon cooking gas started to become scarce in the market. But, do we really need to worry when LPG gets scarce? Can we not find easily available alternatives?
Nepal LPG Industries Association, umbrella organization of LPG industries, presented various demands to Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) including raise in commission and permission to operate Nepali LPG bullets among others. LPG in Nepal is solely traded by NOC, the government owned monopoly to regulate petroleum business. NOC issues the Product Delivery Order (PDO) to industries and fixes the maximum retail price (MRP), rest of the procedures (import, refilling and distribution of LPG) is all done by the industries at their own expenses. And these industries and distributors often come up with various demands and threaten to halt the service which creates panic in the market.
LPG has been playing significant role to ease the life style of consumers from urban cities to rural villages. No doubt at the time of its introduction LPG played a significant role to improve the living standards of consumer and also helped in conservation efforts. But is it still the best alternative for cooking?
Petroleum is the biggest import of Nepal which is the major reason for country’s trade deficit. In fiscal year 2074/075 BS, Nepal imported petroleum worth 1.3 billion rupees, of which 300 million rupees was spent on LPG import. Research has shown almost 50 percent of the total consumption of the LPG is for domestic consumption. In other words, we have been burning almost half of billion in cooking.
LPG was an obvious choice when better alternatives to cooking were not available. In the past couple of decades LPG has penetrated the market in every region of the nation. LPG helped to foster tourism in remote hills and mountains contributing to lower carbon impact substituting the solid fuels. But things are changing. Thanks to the better management of Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA), load-shedding has become a thing of the past. No longer than three years ago, NEA used to make public appeal during festive seasons requesting for minimal use of electricity during peak load hours. But the scenario has changed today, as NEA has been successful to relieve the consumers from the burden of load shedding by ensuring the balance of consumption as per demand. NEA has projected the surplus electricity generation after the completion of major national priority hydropower projects like Upper Tamakoshi. If this comes true, NEA will be challenged to find ways to increase consumption by modifying the household consumption pattern. Thus the surplus from internal generation will contribute to reducing the cost of electricity. Definitely, the decrease in price will cause a surge in consumption. In such prospect, electric cooking, the best substitute of LPG, will become the best alternative for all households.
Beyond lighting up the world, electricity is enhancing lifestyle in various ways. It has revealed potential ways to enhance lifestyle through automation of everyday task. Technological advancement has enhanced energy efficiency. Smart and efficient equipment are available at reasonable price resulting in increased access. Undoubtedly, electricity is the future of energy.
LPG was introduced as the cleaner cooking alternative to traditional solid fuels (woods and manures), when electric cooking was not accessible. Solid fuels which are still prevalent in rural villages have direct substantial effects upon the health of users as well as the ecology and environment. It should be replaced by cleaner electronic medium.
Time is now
Electrical cooking system is a onetime investment and requires less handling compared to LPG cylinders. Electronic cooking is much safer and requires less technical knowledge. Mishandling of LPG cylinders have caused fatal accidents and cost many lives. Such risks are low with electric cooking.
With the increased global warming, environment conservation is the main topic of discussion everywhere. Even the countries with piles of fossil fuel resources are switching to a cleaner form of energy. In this context, LPG should not be an option as far as possible.
Government, through special programs, should encourage users to increase access to electric kitchen. Federal governments should plan to phase out LPG on various stages and get people to use electricity as fuel in their kitchen.
Nepali gas industrialists should realize that consumers today have a credible and affordable option of LPG in their kitchens. So they should give up this strategy of scaring them with the threats of strikes and disruption of supplies. They have already faced the worst shortage of LPG during the 2015 blockade. They will go for substituting LPG needs with electricity.