Blockade delays hydropower

Blockade delays hydropower

Monday, November 30th, 2015 Nepali Times

Lokmani Rai,

Upper Tamakoshi hydropower project in Dolakha was delayed by the earthquakes. It is now being delayed again by India’s blockade. Lokmani Rai in Himal Khabarpatrika, 29 November-5 December Prime Minister KP Oli has vowed to end load-shedding in just one year, prompting many to ridicule him for trying to ‘fool the people with hollow promises’. The Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) Managing Director Mukesh Raj Kafle defends Oli, saying it would not be impossible to end load-shedding in one year if the Dhalkebar-Muzaffarpur transmission line is completed in time. If the construction of the 400 KV cross-border transmission line is completed in the next few months, the NEA can import 90 MW more electricity from India. But that will reduce load-shedding by only less than two hours, so despite what Kafle’s says pinning all our hopes on the transmission line would be misguided.

bulb blrubNevertheless, load-shedding can be reduced by as many as five hours if some small and medium-scale hydropower projects are completed this year. The NEA and independent power producers are likely to complete nine hydropower projects by July next year, adding 160 MW more electricity to the national grid. But independent power producers say they can meet their targets only if they get sufficient diesel to transport construction material and run heavy equipment. They say the government must prioritise hydropower projects on the basis of their progress reports and set aside a diesel quota for the projects nearing completion. The 7 MW Mai Cascade hydropower project, being developed by Sanima Hydropower is almost complete. “We need just 10,000 litres of diesel before we start our test production,” says Sanima’s Subarna Das Shrestha who is also former President of Independent Power Producers Association Nepal (IPPAN).

He says hydropower projects that can be completed within this year must be given sufficient diesel if the government is serious about its plan to reduce dependence on petroleum and encourage the use of electric stoves and electric public transport. Despite India’s blockade and the Madhes movement, a total of 1,513 tankers carrying diesel entered into Nepal from mid-September to mid-November, and this represented only 15 per cent of the total national demand. Power producers say this is all the more reason that the limited diesel available should be used to expedite hydropower projects. IPPAN President Khadga Bahadur Bista says: “Some hydropower projects, already delayed by the April-May earthquakes, will have to put off their completion dates due to the shortage of diesel.”

The 456 MW Upper Tamakosi, one of Nepal’s largest hydropower projects, was badly hit by the earthquakes. The tremors caused the Tamakosi dam to subside 7 cm, delaying test production deadline. The project Chief Bigyan Shrestha says: “We were all set to resume construction work by October, but diesel crisis is now causing further delay.” Tama Kosi requires 50, 000 litres of diesel every month for construction, and a prolonged blockade will inevitably delay its completion.