I consider myself lucky to be a 90’s kid because I have had the chance to witness the transition of energy trends within the country. I grew up between those phases when using non-renewable resources was first a luxury than a necessity and renewable resources were just being introduced and experimented. I grew up seeing my grand-mom coughing amidst firewood smoke, learning to use the kerosene and LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas) stoves and being delighted when she heard the cow dung she endlessly cleaned every morning could cook meals too. I grew up when the kerosene lit lamps were replaced by the bulbs powered with water generated electricity and solar light were started being considered an alternative to power cuts. Though I took little notice of the transitions back then, I am certainly proud to have been a part of it.
Thriving in a time period where every issue in the world ends up in solutions directing to reducing emissions and searching alternative ways of energy use, Nepal is also striving to do the same. Since Nepal has no source of fossil fuel of its own; there is no better option than utilizing the resources we have in abundant amounts.
Pharping Hydropower Project; the first hydropower Project of Nepal
A country rich in water resources
Nepal boasts 2.27% of the world water resources making it second richest country in inland water resources. The rivers and rivulets flowing within the steep gradients at a high current and the glaciers that recharge the water sources makes it a potential producer of hydroelectricity in theory. Despite the richness, we import about 165 MW of electricity from India when in fact the potential of hydroelectricity in terms of megawatts is estimated to be 83,000 MW, of which half i.e. 40,000 MW is considered to be technically and economically viable. This amount could not only fulfill the energy demands but also create a surplus for exports.
Though the ambitious hydroelectric projects have faced its toll over time and phased out due to reasons like local conflicts, profit oriented minds, political instability, financial or geographical constraints; small-scale projects have come as a consolation. All in all, the country has much to achieve in this sector if it wants to advocate independence and development.
Other potential energy alternatives
Endowed with climatic patterns that favor sunlight most days of the year, solar energy has also become another energy alternative. Today solar panels can be seen on the roof of many houses both in rural and urban areas. Solar lit street lamps have replaced the ordinary lamps in some cities. Wind energy is the least mentioned unharnessed but a high potential energy alternative. Although some areas of the country are considered the potential for these energy alternatives, an intricate study is still a necessity.
Contributing to the global efforts the country has also been trying to reduce its carbon footprints through initiatives such as Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM). Under CDM, to receive carbon credits based on Kyoto Protocol, biogas plants have been established in many houses of Nepal which are estimated to save 239,386 tons of firewood and replace 3,830,000 liters of kerosene every year. Micro-hydropower projects, Improved Cooking Stoves, Improved Water Mills to discourage the diesel use, Solar Home System etc are some other efforts of the CDM.
LPG shortage in the country due to erratic supply from the Indian Oil Corporation (India’s economic blockade) in 2015
In contrary to having no sources of fossil fuels, most of our industries are coal and diesel power that must be imported at higher costs and almost all vehicles are petrol or diesel powered. To top it, the popular notion that we are residing in a world where the stock of fossil fuel is emptying and there is no chance of replenishing it while we are still alive can’t be neglected. So adopting clean energy is an only formidable option. Yes, the initial cost of these alternative energies is high, which will hit hard on our developing the economical state. But it is crucial to know that it is a basis for creating economically, ecologically and socially sustainable future.
If it is perpetual solution and sustainability we are looking for, continual use of non-renewable energy supplements is a suicidal tactic. With clear evidence of harmful emissions being the major cause of climate change, global potential for using renewable energy to mitigate climate change cannot possibly be stressed. Smaller efforts are taken on clean energy sectors while larger amounts of the renewable energy use are still being practiced. This needs to be altered. Protocols must be followed thoroughly not only discussed over conferences. It is necessary to be aware of the fact that, the world is on the verge of losing its living entities due to impending climate issues and we being the living entities, switching to an option that secures our livelihood is a dire requisite.
Originally published in Kathmandu Tribune