NEA falls short of its target to expand electrification, blames coronavirus for the failure

Published On: August 3, 2020 05:10 PM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, Aug 3: Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) has failed to meet its target to expand complete electrification in 40 districts as it could accomplish the tasks only in 15 districts. 

According to its annual progress report, the NEA last year was unable to expand complete electrification in 25 districts as it was unable to continue with its works due to sudden outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the subsequent lockdown enforced by the government to contain the spread of the virus. 

The government enterprise had set the target to ensure complete electrification in 40 districts in 2019/20. But the power utility could accomplish its task only in 11 additional districts last year.

Earlier, only four districts including Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Parbat and Syangja had full electrification. A total of 11 districts including Bardiya, Siraha, Dhankuta, Sunsari, Dhanusha, Mahottari, Bara, Parsa, Nuwakot, Gulmi and Kapilvastu were added in the list in the last fiscal year.

The slow progress could affect the government’s ambitious plan to increase the outreach of people to the domestic fuel source. The government had announced to provide electricity access to every household and increase electricity consumption to 700 units per capita per year by the year 2022.  

Last year, Nepal got an additional 285 circuit kilometer transmission lines, which has created a thin silver lining for the utilization of the electricity generated at home as it is likely to go in waste in the days ahead in the absence of a consumption plan.

According to NEA’s report, the country invested Rs 19.52 billion to develop transmission lines that help to take the power produced by six hydropower projects to the national grids. The progress on physical infrastructure in the segment stood at 74.92 percent during 2019/20. 

Transmission lines connecting Koshi, Solu, Kaligandaki, Marsyangdi corridor, Singati-Lamosanghu, Chilime-Trishuli 3, Hetauda-Dhalkebar-Inaruwa, Marsyangdi-Kathmandu, and Tamakoshi-Kathmandu, among others, are currently under construction.

The NEA’s progress report has created some hope in checking wastage of the electricity produced by a number of hydro projects that are already in the phase of generating power. The 57th annual report published by the Auditor General two weeks ago has mainly pointed out the shortfall in transmission lines as the main hurdle in expanding electrification throughout the country. As a result, private power producers are forced to incur losses amounting to more than Rs382 million annually.

The report said 95.61 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity produced by 18 private hydropower companies had gone to waste in 2018/19 due to lack of efficiency on the part of government bodies concerned to improve, renovate and build new transmission lines. It has pointed out that the electricity authority has been importing Rs 734.7 million worth of power annually from India by paying Rs 8 per unit while private producers receive Rs 4 per unit on average. “In total, it has inflicted losses amounting to Rs1.14 billion to the country in the fiscal year 2018-19,” the report said.

According to the NEA, acquisition of the required land to stretch the transmission lines, problems of the land compensations, impediment by local people during realignment and policy hurdles are among the underlying problems in slow progress of the transmission lines construction. Provided the problems are not addressed on time, it is likely to hit the distribution of additional 1,300 MW of electricity that the government has announced to produce in the current fiscal year.

Last year, the electricity authority improved the capacity of substations by 840.40 kVA, targeting to improve the quality of power supply. During the period, four new substations with capacity 138.6 kVA were brought online while another 37 substations were upgraded to 579.80 kVA in total.  

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