Energy Ministry shifting focus from power plants to transmission network

- PRAHLAD RIJAL, Kathmandu

May 25, 2019-

The Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation plans to spend more than 50 percent of its budget ceiling on building transmission lines and power distribution projects.

As the country is poised to produce surplus energy, ministry officials said the focus had shifted from hydropower projects, and that they had sought more funds for expanding the transmission system and improving power distribution. The Finance Ministry has set the budget ceiling for the Energy Ministry at Rs88.45 billion, a marginal increment from the current fiscal’s budget, and ministry officials have outlined power line and distribution projects worth Rs45 billion for the upcoming fiscal year.

“We have prioritised national and cross-border transmission line projects to ensure consumption of the surplus energy that a slew of power projects will produce in the upcoming year,” said Gokarna Raj Panta, the ministry’s deputy spokesperson.

“As discussions are ongoing, the budget for power lines and distribution grids might even increase slightly by the time the budget statement is released.”

Energy officials have accorded high priority to the construction of reliable transmission corridors for optimal evacuation of power for domestic consumption and export, apart from minimising costs for power producers.

A large chunk of the budget, around Rs60 billion, is likely to be appropriated for projects undertaken by the Nepal Electricity Authority, which plans to expedite transmission corridor projects in eastern and central Nepal where a majority of private power projects are nearing completion.

In the upcoming fiscal year, the electricity authority plans to issue commercial operation dates to 43 under-construction hydropower projects that will produce around 1,150 MW and the state-owned power utility is constructing multiple transmission corridor projects in the eastern and central regions to evacuate and distribute power more efficiently.

“We have expedited work at the Kabeli, Solu and Koshi corridors in the eastern region to upgrade the system for increased consumption and reliable transmission,” said Kulman Ghising, managing director of the Nepal Electricity Authority.

The Transmission System Development Plan, unveiled by the ministry in July 2018, has also highlighted the need to have a robust distribution system to evacuate power to energy starved regions and facilitate electricity export to India and China.

According to Prabin Raj Aryal, spokesperson for the Energy Ministry, the ministry has pushed for better distribution facilities and rural electrification programmes in line with the plan, apart from implementing the existing projects.

“We have also asked for funds to implement new and much needed transmission projects in the western region in line with the Ujjyalo Nepal Campaign as many households in the region are yet to be connected to the national grid,” said Aryal. Among the eight districts that remain to be connected to the national grid, seven—Bajura, Humla, Jumla, Kalikot, Mugu, Dolpa, Rukum (East)—lie in the western region.

Speaking at the International Hydropower Congress in Paris last week, Energy Minister Barsha Man Pun reiterated the government’s plan to provide access to energy to 100 percent of the population in the next five years.

“In five years, we intend to provide access to 100 percent of the population through a mix of grid and off-grid systems,” said the minister. “In the meantime, we are implementing several transmission and distribution system reinforcement projects to provide reliable electricity services to the people.”

As per World Bank statistics, 90.7 percent of the total population had access to electricity in 2016.

“The government has adopted a policy of building high voltage transmission lines for the existing and yet to be built industries and economic zones to ensure regular supply of electricity,” said the power utility. “To achieve this, the electricity authority has been working to upgrade the existing substations and build new transmission lines and distribution grids.”

As per the authority’s statistics, it has built 19 grids, 8,000 circuit kilometres of power lines and 20 distribution substations in the current fiscal year.

Rajapur substation kicks in, consumers get regular power

 The 33/11 kV substation in Rajapur, Bardia, built by the government at a cost of Rs90.36 million, went into operation on Wednesday. According to Nepal Electricity Authority officials, around 20,000 consumers in the region are now getting a regular supply of electricity.

Apart from the substation, a 33 kV transmission line connecting Rajapur with the grid at Tikapur in Kailali has also been brought into operation, said Kulman Ghising, managing director of the authority.

“Earlier, we had to transmit power to Rajapur through a long distance 11 kV line, and as a result, the region faced voltage fluctuations, drops and intermittent supply,” said Ghising. “As the substation and transmission lines are in operation, the voltage will improve and we will be able to monitor and control leakages.”

The electricity authority is operating three feeders at the location which are connected to two 11 kV feeders in Nepalgunj. A construction contract to build the substation was signed in fiscal year 2013-14.

Published: 25-05-2019 09:54

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