KATHMANDU, Jan 22: “Why live in energy scarcity when in your own hands is renewable energy (RE)…..?” “There is energy everywhere - in sunlight, water, wind and earth…..and where not.”
Visitors are simply bound to stop and listen when the couplet sung in a rather familiar voice reaches their ears right at the entrance of the renewable energy exhibition at Bhrikutimandap.
Some even look excited, thinking they would meet the singers duo Madan Krishna Shrestha and Haribansha Acharya in person. Upon following the sound they only discover a big mike in a Nano car repeatedly putting out the message of renewable energy. They get hooked for a while as it dawns on them as a possible solution to the power crisis.
People watch electric vehicle at Bhrikutimandap. (Photo: Keshab Thoker)
Expanding renewable energy to the urban areas is one of the mottos of the exhibition organized to mark Renewable Energy Week 2013, according to Dr Govinda Raj Pokhrel, executive director of Alternative Energy Promotion Center (AEPC). And the two-day exhibition that came to a conclusion Monday was largely able to help meet that goal, he believes.
“Renewable energy is something people know the least about. This is more so in urban areas as the related programs have been limited to the countryside so far,” said Pokhrel. “This is the first time we have organized a countrywide exhibition as, given the power problem in urban areas, it has now become essential to urbanize energy.”
Long hours of load-shedding have literally paralyzed life in the capital and elsewhere. No wonder, it was none other than the stalls showcasing solar panels and other tools and packages for turning sunlight into electricity that have attracted the maximum number of visitors on both days of the exhibition, according to Resha Piya, senior energy officer at AEPC and exhibition coordinator.
“The visitors are so keen to know the cost of generating solar power and its efficiency. Many have booked such packages for their homes,” she said.
Reva Electric Cars. (Photo: Keshab Thoker)
Stall No. 88 - Sunlight Energy Solar Company - alone has been able to do business worth Rs 2.5 million in the two days. According to Achyut Timilsinna, managing director of the company, it is way higher than what he was expecting.
“I do not know whether it is because our stall is facing the front, but business has been far better than we had hoped,” he said adding, however, that explaining to visitors how the package works became quite a taxing job.
“You have to keep explaining to every individual from top to bottom. After all, they would buy our products only if they are convinced,” he explained.
To set up the company, Timilsinna and his group invested Rs 10 million five years ago. By now the company is already turning a good profit, Timilsinna states.
“This sector has very good scope. With the support of AEPC we have been working in several districts and now we are gearing up to hit the urban areas -- this exhibition is indeed working,” he said. “What we are looking to is some sort of subsidy for the program, just as in the villages, or some other favorable policy to attract the urban masses,” Timilsinna stressed.
There are more than 150 companies like Timilsinna´s in Nepal. AEPC has so far provided licenses to 37 while many others are in the pipeline.
AEPC reports that the battery, panels and other parts for the packages are imported from Bangladesh, India and China, and to promote renewable energy the government has made imports of these items duty-free.
´Alternative energy is the only choice remaining´ Dr Govinda Raj Pokhrel
AEPC was established in 1996. The urban area has been facing acute power problem since long, need not AEPC turn its focus to urban area much earlier?
That´s true. But we also have limitation and we have been working on a phase-wise manner. Rural areas became priority of the government and the donor agencies for obvious reasons. Indoor smoke-free kitchen in the rural areas was essential for better health of basically women and children. By November 2012 we disseminated 637,101 improved cooking stoves in all ecological regions of the country. Similarly, 8730 metallic improved stoves were installed in high hills of the country through private companies. The programs of the community electrification at villages or mini-hydro or pico-hydro have been successful in many areas alongside.
As the power crisis has seriously affected the efficiency of the youths and others and basically industries in the urban areas, we now cannot wait to begin to explore renewable energy here. But without the government policy to support it, things won´t work effectively.
What is the role of the private sector in implementing renewable energy including micro-hydro installations?
They have key role in making it successful. Regarding micro-hydro installations they are involved in all steps of the project cycle. Every year, AEPC prequalifies companies for conducting detailed feasibility study and installation. These companies have grown over the years due to increased demand for micro-hydro. There were only 21 installation companies and 29 survey firms in 2002, and this has more than doubled by 2012. Similarly, there are above 150 solar companies countrywide now and more are coming up. The government needs to further encourage them and bring policies to secure their investment in order to promote renewable energy.
It is said that renewable energy is costly than the traditional energy. How much would be the cost if an average family in Kathmandu wants to install sun energy to meet its demand?
The specialty of renewable energy is that it comes for free, we have to pay only for the technology. In contrast, it is not so with fuel or other sources of energy. So, in the long term, we have no choice other than to turn to alternative energy. Furthermore, here we are not saying that renewable energy would absolutely replace the other sources. We need to go step by step toward making renewable energy our reliable source for power and energy. And this can be done only if the key position holders in the government understand the issue properly and are willing to work in the interest of the country.
You mean, you doubt that the government may not take interest in renewable energy as in diesel plant or so on due to some political interest?
Let´s not comment on this. Let me only speak what is in my domain. But one thing is for sure, the cost in terms of loss that we are bearing due to power crisis and the fuel we are importing from the neighbor is much higher than it would have been if the government had opted to expand renewable energy.