Sans effective intervention, power cuts reach 12 hours a day

  • Supply 500MW against peak winter demand of 1,014MW

  • Utility official forecasts load-shedding could be harsher

"If the current scenario persists, expect power cuts of over 16 hours a day during peak winter," says an NEA official.

KATHMANDU, DEC 26 -

The government’s year-long preparations to limit load-shedding to 12 hours a day this winter have failed to make any significant progress. Despite Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai’s instructions and efforts to substantially curtail power outages, the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) on Tuesday formally announced that load-shedding would last 12 hours a day starting Wednesday.

Although the dry season has yet to reach its peak, the NEA has already surrendered. Since the beginning of winter this year, this is the fourth time the state-owned power utility has announced an increase in power cuts.

Till November end, load-shedding was limited to 36 hours a week but the outage period has since gone up time and again, currently standing at 84 hours a week. Various reasons were cited for the increases, including the decrease in water levels at the Kulekhani reservoir, the failure to import electricity from India and an increase in power demand this year by as much as 80 megawatt (MW).

Bhuwan Chettri, chief of the System Operations Department at the NEA, said it was their compulsion to increase power outage by 14 hours a week as supply could not match the demand. “As winter advances, the level of running water in rivers and artificial reservoirs drops. Thus, hydropower projects generate less electricity, which is not enough to meet the growing demand,” said Chettri.

According to Chettri, this winter’s highest energy demand reached 1,014MW while supply remains 500MW. “We are not sure how many times power outage will have to be increased this

winter if the issue is not addressed,” he warned. An NEA official sees a dismal

picture, saying that it was just the beginning of darker days ahead. “If the current scenario persists, expect power cuts of over 16 hours a day during peak winter,” he said.

The Energy Ministry, being led by the prime minister himself at the moment, had introduced a Loadshedding Reduction Action Plan with some controversial recommendations like setting up an 80MW diesel plant. The plan drew severe criticism, stalling NEA efforts even after inviting expressions of interest (EoI) for the diesel plant. The 15-point action plan had suggested other measures, including early construction of the 400KV Dhalkebar- Muzaffarpur cross-border transmission line, generating 40 MW energy from diesel plants in Hetauda and Duhabi, importing 200 MW of additional energy from India, and purchasing energy from local industrial units. The action plan had also recommended that the government construct a 132KV transmission line from Duhabi to Kataiya by mid-February 2013 to import 50MW power from India.

The government revived two of its diesel plants—the 39MW plant in Duhabi, Morang, and the 14.4MW unit in Hetauda—on December 12. The Hetauda plant currently generates 10MW while the Duhabi plant produces 30MW energy. The operation of these plants will cost Rs 2.8 billion annually, Rs 28-30 per unit electricity. “There is uncertainty whether the government will fund the diesel plants’ operation,” said the source. “This puts the plants’ future in limbo.”

As per the NEA’s request, the Indian government has agreed to export 70MW energy. However, officials involved in the deal said it would take time.

Despite proactive instructions, energy experts claimed that the government has been barking up the wrong tree. “Reducing load-shedding is not as easy as the ministry, the NEA and the PM think,” said an energy expert who works for the government. “In fact, the government has never been on the right track to curb power outages.”

According to the expert, even the diesel plants do not contribute substantially to the power grid. “The government has been running in all directions, scattering money in the name of mitigating the energy crisis,” he said. “The government needs to be focussed if it really intends to solve the power crisis. It should invest more money and efforts to construct at least one big storage hydroelectricity project as a solution.”

 

Posted on: 2012-12-26 12:00