At a time when most of the urban areas of Nepal have been passing through severe power cuts, spanning over 12 hours a day, the villagers in Priti Village, in the north of Ramechhap district, 150 kilometers east of capital Kathmandu, has surplus electricity.
Built under the government subsidy, the project generates 24-kilowatt electricity from Tingli River for supply to the entire village. The local people are using only six out of the 24 kilowatts of power. A micro-hydro built in Dumja river in Gupteshwor village of Ramechhap district generates 35 kilowatts of electricity, where the demand is just over 9 kilowatts.
"We are generating surplus electricity of over 18 kilowatts, but there is no market to sell the surplus," said Krishna Kumar Sunar, president of Dumja River Micro-hydro project.
Thanks to the micro-hydro, the livelihood of the people of in the two villages has changed drastically. “We don’t need to pay additional money to buy kerosene or burn pine trees to light the house and people are looking up to establishing small industries by using the electricity.”
Establishing alternative energy sources like micro hydro, solar, biogas, wind and improved stoves need a one-time investment. These schemes then provide electricity for a long time. Lawa Kumar Koirala of Salyan Village, of Solukhumbu, 250 kilometers east of capital Kathmandu, has also some reason to rejoice. After the installation of biogas plant in his home, his family does not have to go to forests to collect firewood. Villagers use bulbs for light, instead of kerosene. Like Koirala there are one hundred families in Solu district who are using the biogas as a source of energy.
Nepal has over 300,000 bio-gas plants, costing some Rs. 15,000 each.
"Bio-gas saves our money and provides clean and healthy energy for cooking and lighting home," said Koirala. “We can pay back the money.”
Similarly, solar power is now the main source for lighting many households. Even the people in the urban areas like Kathmandu are moving towards solar energy as an alternative source to address the uncertainty of electricity supply by NEA’s central grid.
In Kharbang village, the community was involved from the inception phase and trained to maintain and sustain the micro hydropower plant. The project is focusing now on promoting sustainable livelihoods, through technical capacity building and direct financial assistance.
The Alternative Energy Promotion Centre-AEPC has been promoting alternative energy sources like mini/micro hydropower, biogas, solar, wind and biomass in the country. With support from various development partners, the center has been providing subsidy supports and technical assistance to develop mini/micro hydropower projects, installment of solar, biogas, improved stoves and wind.
Thanks to the continual involvement of the center, alternative energy has been used to bring about a drastic change in the livelihood of tens of thousands of rural population contributing to poverty alleviation campaign as well. The energy has changed the status of education, health as well as income of the people. The supply of energy has reduced the burden on women.
The AEPC is under the Ministry of Environment, Science, and Technology and it has been supporting development and installation of micro-hydropower plants ranging from 5 to 500 kW, with a cumulative capacity up to 15 MW. The implementation of these plants will be done through two AEPC projects: the Rural Energy Development Program and the Minigrid Support Program of the Energy Sector Assistance Program.
“These projects have inherent direct benefits. Off-grid power generated by mini-hydro will provide a large number of rural households with electricity and power for lighting, milling, and other needs. Such off-grid renewable energy systems not only help in poverty alleviation but also have direct local environmental benefits,” said experts.
APEC for rural industries
Along with providing support to generate electricity, the AEPC has brought a plan to promote small and medium scale industries in rural areas with the alternative energy plan. With an aim to promote and develop renewable energy technologies and small, medium scale industries, the centre has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Federation of Nepal Cottage and Small Industries (FNCSI).
Executive Director of the Centre Govinda Raj Pokharel said they have made a policy decision to increase access to power and bring it into use for people in remote parts of the country.
“The centre will promote alternative energy along with micro-hydro projects not exceeding 1 MW in remote areas as such projects will not be implemented by Nepal Electricity Authority in the next five years or NEA has no plan to connect them to the national grid,” said Pokharel
“The centre has already supported communities in the construction of more than 700 micro hydro projects (total 25 MW) ranging from 100 KW to 500 KW. Three lakh biogas plants, solar panels in 3.5 lakh households and 6.5 lakh smokeless improved stoves were installed in the country with support from the centre,” said Keshab Prasad Bhattarai, secretary at Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment.
According to APEC, the country has already earned 2.1 million US dollars in the last 3 years selling carbon by saving trees after installation of biogas plants. Among other supports are solar, biogas and other sources of energy to promote small and medium scale industries.
Pokharel said they will formulate an action plan to implement more such projects. “A solar drier for apples in Helambu, which is not transported to the market, is an example of a new support programme, and our support for small industries can improve rural economy, promote self-employment and increase export,” said Pokharel.
Contribution of Micro Hydro
According to an estimate, by the end of 2012, 15 percent of Nepal’s electricity will be generated from micro and mini hydropower plants. For each new micro hydropower system, 40 new businesses are created. The micro hydropower plants are part of a larger project seeking to promote renewable energy sources to provide reliable, low-cost electricity to a large number of isolated, rural communities in Nepal.
With an objective to reach more than one million rural households with alternative energy technologies, including small hydropower, biogas, solar cells and improved cooking stoves, AEPC has been working in various parts of Nepal. Executive Director professor Dr. Govinda Pokharel remains instrumental to bring these changes.
Lack of access to energy in rural Nepal is a major challenge for Nepal's socioeconomic development. With increased access to energy, chances to improve the living standards of rural women and men, increased employment of women and men as well as productivity are bigger. Alternative energy also reduces dependency on traditional, dirty energy, leading to better prospects of sustainable development.
Experiments have shown that energy is the vital tool, which enhances and supports the ability to pursue basic and productive activities in building economy from the individuals to the macro level. Access to safe, clean and reliable energy guarantees the basic and productive operation of end-uses. Secure energy access for productive end-uses promotes productivity, generates employment and enhances livelihood.
Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC)
With the aim to popularize and promote the use of alternative/renewable energy technology, to raise the living standard of the rural people, to protect the environment, to develop the commercially viable alternative energy industries in the country, Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC) was established as a government institution on November 3, 1996 under the then Ministry of Science and Technology. APEC’s main objective is to develop and promote renewable/alternative energy technologies in Nepal.
AEPC was set up to help meet the clean energy needs in Nepal. Acting as an intermediary institution between the operational level NGOs/private promoters of renewable energy and the policy decision levels in relevant ministries, AEPC's activities include renewable energy policy formulation, planning and facilitating the implementation of the policies/plans.
The main role and responsibilities of AEPC are to formulate short, medium and long term policy and plan formulation in addition to promotion of development programs, standardization, quality assurance and monitoring.
Along with microhhydro, AEPC also promotes other alternative energy sources. Biogas program (Biogas Support Program (BSP) began in July 1992. As of 2012, it is one of the major source with over 300,000 biogas plants installed under the BSP alone, in over 2800 VDCs and all over 75 districts.
It has also made a major contribution in the solar power installations. Solar Photovoltaic System, Solar Home Systems (SHS), Small Solar Home Systems, Institutional Solar PV systems (ISPS) and Solar PV Water Pump System (PVPS) and Institutional Solar PV Systems (ISPS) are some of the popular systems introduced by APEC.
Although the government plans for developing the wind energy sector in Nepal have existed for some time, it is only since the establishment of AEPC in 1996 that serious research and development has taken place. Despite these efforts, wind energy is still in its infancy in Nepal and limited data is available for research and modeling. Nepal's rugged geography presents another challenge to wind energy projects.
Nepal has a very high potential to exploit the renewable energy resources. However, the potential has not been exploited to the fullest. The energy sector of Nepal is characterized by a very heavy reliance on traditional resources which contribute more than 85 percent of the total energy consumption. Use of Renewable Energy Technologies (RETs) can reduce the dependency on traditional energy and help to protect the environment and reduce emission of greenhouse gases, contribute to sustainable development, regional balance and increase the economic activities. It ultimately contributes to improve the health and educational status of the population as well.