At a time when most of the urban areas of Nepal have been facing severe power cuts, spanning over 12 hours a day, the villagers in remote parts of Nepal have a reason to rejoice, at least in terms of their access to power generated through solar, wind, biogas and micro-hydro schemes.
The Census Report of 2011 has showed that 67.26 percent of the population now uses electricity as the main source of light. Similarly, 2.41 percent population uses biogas as the main source for cooking. This indicates that the alternative energy sources like bio-gas, solar, micro-hydro and wind power are reaching the people. In a country with the world’s lowest electricity consumption, the use of alternative energy sources will provide a long term solution to increase the access of the rural population to energy in exchange for an affordable one time investment.
As the Alternative Energy Promotion Center (AEPC) is organizing the Renewable Energy Week 2014, the government's decision to pilot the renewable energy through collaboration between municipalities and AEPC makes a great sense.
Looking at the AEPC experiences, the government has recently decided to launch the collaborative pilot projects in 14 municipalities.
Using renewable 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.
"Nepal is a country endowed with a high potential for renewable energy resources like hydro, solar, wind, biomass etc. The country has abundant hydroelectric potential. However, we are not able to fully convert it into useful energy. The use of alternative/renewable energy technologies is growing. Presently around 14% of population is electrified by alternative energy sources like micro hydro plant and solar home system. Around 900 thousand households are using clean energy solutions like improved cook stoves, biogas etc. for cooking. Although, the share of alternative energy sources is still small, it has increased by more than 50% since 2005 and this trend is expected to grow in future also. Because of Alternative Energy Technologies many social issues like regional disparity in access to clean energy, indoor air pollution and employment generation, reduced pressure on forest are positively addressed," said Professor Dr. Govinda Raj Pokharel, executive director Alternative Energy Promotion Center.
Nepal has over 300,000 bio-gas plants, costing some Rs. 15,000 each. 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.
The 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 and technical assistance to develop mini/micro hydropower projects, installment of solar, biogas, improved stoves and wind power schemes.
Thanks to the continued involvement of the center, alternative energy has brought about a drastic change in the livelihood of tens of thousands of rural people, contributing to the poverty alleviation campaign as well. The alternative 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.
AEPC is under the Ministry of Environment, Science, and Technology and it has been supporting the development and installation of micro-hydropower plants ranging from 5 to 500 kW, with a cumulative capacity of 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).
“The centre will promote alternative energy along with micro-hydro projects not exceeding 1 MW in remote areas. Such projects will not be implemented by Nepal Electricity Authority in the next five years. Nor does NEA have any plan to connect them to the national grid,” said Professor Dr. Pokharel
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.
Contribution of Micro Hydro
According to an estimate, by the end of 2012, 15 percent of Nepal’s electricity was to 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 a vital tool, which enhances and supports the ability to pursue basic and productive activities in building economy from the individual to the macro level. Access to safe, clean and reliable energy guarantees the basic and productive operation of end-uses. Secure energy access 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, and 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 policies and plans in addition to promotion of development programs, standardization, quality assurance and monitoring.
Along with micro hydro, 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 sources 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 has planned for developing the wind energy sector in Nepal 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 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.
The objectives of the Renewable Energy Week 2014 are to create awareness about large scale utilization of renewable energy among the general people, to sensitize policy makers to make Renewable Energy as mainstreaming energy source for economic development and to attract and engage private sector investment in renewable energy.
The Sun is an infinite source of energy that is pivotal for sustaining life on our planet earth. Energy from the Sun has been harnessed since the ancient times to this modern era of ever evolving technologies. Solar radiation can be converted into useful energy such as - solar collectors can provide hot water or air heating, solar photovoltaic cells can generate electricity.
Nepal is blessed with solar resource as it lies at 30◦Northern latitude which is ideal and there are over 300 days of sunshine annually. Further the annual average solar insolation is 5kWh/m2 per day. These conditions are perfect for harnessing solar energy for various conversion technologies. Broadly, the applications of solar energy in Nepal are –solar, wind, biogas and micro-hydro.
Nepal has a huge potential for solar energy. Around 2.920 GWh of energy per year can be harnessed by utilizing just 0.01 percent of the total land area of Nepal for solar energy.
As urban households are facing an acute shortage of power, the number of people searching for alternative power has gone up. The presence of a huge number of people in the exhibition for alternative energy showed that the people are willing to move to solar, wind or biogas as alternative sources of energy.
Presently around 12 percent of the population is using electricity from alternative energy. “If Rs 25 billion is invested in alternative energy development, the industries would be relieved of power crisis for good,” Executive Director of AEPC Dr. Govinda Raj Pokharel said. "Alternative energy solutions are cheaper in the longer term. Of course, it is initially a little bit expensive, but in the long run alternative energy solutions are cheaper than the traditional sources.”
As APEC is organizing the Renewable Energy Week, it will definitely generate the awareness among the people about the importance of renewable energy in the present context.