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Renewable energy with big opportunities with challenges

   February 26, 2019        518        Purna N. Ranjitkar
Purna N. Ranjitkar

Renewable energy technologies for the people of remote village and also places where electricity through the national grid is not available have been a tool to access energy solutions. This has been called alternative energy in Nepal. Micro-hydro, Solar PV, Solar Thermal, Bio-gas and Improved Cookstoves are the main technologies being promoted as alternative energy technologies. The technologies being served are much contextual. Moreover, introduction of new and innovative technologies are successful in creating better impact. So as demand is in the increasing trend.

Renewable energy also concerns to global warming, climate change and environmental issues. The recent addressing of Nepal’s President on the theme at Katowice, Poland was a landmark expression of Nepal.

Likewise, Prime Minister K. P. Sharma Oli addressing World Economic Forum meeting in Davos Switzerland also had expressed the importance and value of renewable energy for Nepal and rest of world.

Nepal is one of the countries to sign to be concerned parties of global campaigns such as Sustainable Development Goal and Sustainable Energy for All to provide modern energy access to all households within 2030. Clean cook solution to every house is another campaign Nepal is putting efforts to happen it successful.

The White Paper on Energy and Irrigation brought out by Ministry of Energy, Water Resource and Irrigation in last May had also elaborated the plans and movements to achieve 5000 MW of electricity to be generated from hydropower plants in 3 years to come, 10,000 MW in 5 years and 15,000 MW in 10 years are ambitious and encouraging. Likewise, the document speaks on electricity generated through Solar Photovoltaic systems as ‘Energy Mix for Energy Security’ to bring into effect. Opportunities of Solar farms to generate megawatts of electricity to connect to national grid and Roof-top Solar Net-Metering as distributed power generation also have been taken into account.

Every house : energy house, Every settlement : Energy settlement, electric cooking facilities, industries to electrify and also electric motilities have been given importance in the government’s important document. The Government of Nepal also had formed a special committee promote bio-fertiliser which in future will be able to replace use of chemical fertiliser. This will help reinstate soil quality and produce hygienic food.

Provisions of Energy banking and export of energy in future are also encouraging components achieved by Nepal government in recent period.

The federal government also had appointed energetic and experienced persons with ‘vision’ to promote and develop RETs for the benefit to the country also signifies that the RETs will take desired pace.

Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC), the independently functioning government institution established by the Government of Nepal with the objectives to popularize and promote the use of renewable energy technologies, raise the living standards of the rural people, protect the environment, and develop commercially viable renewable energy industries in the country. The institution under the Ministry of Energy, Water Resource and Irrigation has been active since its inception 23 years back. It has been successful in delivering technical and financial support to promote and develop renewable energy technologies especially in the off-grid areas coordinating the government fund and supports of donors and development partners including the private sector who play vital role in supply, delivery, installation and after-sales-services. The role of AEPC in the present context is more important in coordinating the stakeholders in delivering well set RE programmes.

Despite of all said favourable climate, the RE sector is facing some but big hurdles to rid over.

Coordinating with Federal Government, Provincial Governments and Local Governments are big task for the private sector. The governments who are ‘new’ to the system need of knowledge sharing to acquire RETs and utilise it well. Thus, capacity building has been a big need of the hour. The capacity building movement will help concerned authorities to well functioning while private sector will get access to work with the governments to deliver services and supplies.

Financing to RETs has been another hurdle as the entrepreneurs are not getting expectable supports from commercial banks. They sometimes find lack of equity to start with a viable venture.

Government of Nepal, through AEPC, has been providing subsidy to the households, communities, institutions and entrepreneurs as incentives to purchase suitable size of RET which played vital role in promotion of alternative energy systems. The people of remote and off-grid locations and financially weak users have been benefitted by subsidised programmes. In the changed context, some additional procedures and paper works introduced are causing the subsidy process expensive. That needs to be addressed by increasing ratio of subsidy, or some idea has been a must to lower the cost of subsidised RE systems.

Likewise, credits to be avail to consumers or entrepreneurs are rarely possible through the commercial banks. The micro finance institutions are considered of well doing by providing loans to buy small RETs in far flung villages also. They are consumer friendly in terms of collateral is not matter to decide for loan to provide. However, the interest is very high as they charge minimum of 18 percent per annum which consumers can hardly afford. Thus, finance for RETs has been a must to consider well.

Well managed financial systems can also help boost micro, small and cottage industries local all over the country.  Use of renewable energy to MSCIs has been recognised as systems will enhance quantity and quality of production. This will have increased usage of locally available resources, mobilise raw materials and manpower thus reducing cost of production and thereby increasing employment opportunities attracting and help retain youth in the country. It will add increase in profit to entrepreneurs promoting indigenous art, craft and food items leading to creation of economic opportunities and employment in rural area by linking local producers with domestic and international market.

Said gaps may be covered by formulating of better and RE friendly policy and reforming existing laws and legal provisions. Therefore, RE experts, professionals, academia, media and authorities should work together to influence policy makers to produce RE friendly policy.

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