Why does the power keep fluctuating? It’s because of the aging infrastructure
Padma Bashyal loves Saturdays. Not because she is lounging, but because her beauty salon sees more and more clients. Saturday is a good working day for Bashyal who has a fair in Kirtipur. But lately, she has faced a problem: frequent power cuts.
âI have more clients on Saturdays because they don’t have to go to work,â she says. “But the power cuts have become a big challenge for me.”
She can’t afford a generator, she said.
“I need to use beauty salon equipment like hairdryers and steamers, and I need lights in the salon, and electricity is essential,” said Bashyal, 28. .
Since her father lost his job after the pandemic, she has been helping her parents financially. The Covid-19 lockdown also resulted in his living room being closed for months.
âAs I saw a recovery in business, frequent power cuts added to my woes,â she said.
Between 2007 and 2017, the country suffered a severe power shortage that caused up to 18 hours of power outages per day.
This load shedding had a disastrous effect on the Nepalese economy. According to a World Bank report, a regular power supply would have increased the country’s annual gross domestic product by almost 7%, and the annual investment would have been 48% higher.
In May 2018, the Nepal Electricity Authority officially announced that the whole country was free from load shedding.
The 24-hour uninterrupted power supply has led many people to get rid of their inverters, a piece of energy storage equipment.
Lately, sudden power cuts have made a comeback. But without a proper mechanism to respond to their queries, people are expressing their frustrations with the frequent blackouts on social media platforms.
No one, however, has been able to figure out the exact reason for the frequent power cuts.
Anu Subedi, information officer at the Nepal Electricity Authority, said maintenance work is being carried out in various areas of the Kathmandu Valley, such as laying underground cables and other repair works.
“We are posting notices on our official website providing full details on when and where the electricity supply will be cut off, and state the reason before shutting off the electricity,” she said.
Bashyal said his salon remained closed for most of the lockdown and business remained slow even after stay-at-home orders were lifted. And just as the pandemic situation improves and people are returning to her living room, she said the power outage problem is preventing her from providing full service and earning a good income.
âI have to pay the living room rent, pay bank loans and pay for household expenses, and when the service is interrupted because of the electricity, I am extremely stressed,â she told The Post.
Gehendra Timalsena, who works at Logistic Stone Step, an IT solutions company, does her home office job. Frequent fluctuations in current stress him out because they disrupt his official work when he has deadlines to meet.
âWhen the power goes out in the middle of an online meeting or when submitting my work, it impacts performance,â said Timalsena of Pepsicola. âWe have to buy expensive mobile data to attend online meetings or submit work files despite paying electricity bills regularly,â he said.
Timalsena does not find it useful to complain about the power cuts to the authority because no one is listening.
Officials say the decades-old electrical infrastructure is reaching capacity and faltering.
Kulman Ghising, chief executive of the authority, said the problem of frequent power cuts could be due to technical triggers, but the problem is very small. “Power cuts are not caused by the lack of electricity,” he said.
Until a few years ago, Nepal suffered from power shortages, and now when the supply reached a surplus state, the trigger problem began.
On Monday, the Asian Development Bank approved a loan of $ 60 million as additional support for the ongoing power grid modernization project that modernizes power transmission and distribution systems in Nepal.
The ongoing project, approved in November 2020, automates 34 existing grid substations across Nepal, completes the installation of smart meters in the Kathmandu Valley, upgrades 144 km of transmission lines and constructs 113 km of new lines , and establishes an electricity control and distribution system. control center.
According to the bank, the increased funding will help build 16 km of 132 kilovolt transmission lines from Nepalgunj to Kohalpur and from Chobhar to Lagankhel. It will introduce an additional 477 mega-volt substation capacity through the construction of substations at Dumkibas, Lagankhel, Mulpani and Nepalgunj.
“About 400 megawatts of electricity are wasted for lack of consumption, and there is no reason to implement load shedding,” Ghising said, adding that the current problem was only technical.
The crippling load shedding the country endured for years finally came to an end after Kulman Ghising was appointed CEO of the Nepal Electricity Authority in September 2016.
In fiscal year 2016-17, the electric utility achieved a net profit of Rs 1.50 billion, putting the still loss-making organization on a solid financial footing.
Despite two magical performances as soon as Ghising took over the power company, there has been no timely response to modernize the aging infrastructure.
âSometimes faults in the lines occur, and also when repair work is done on wires and transformers, service is briefly interrupted,â Ghising said.
âThe supply is cut off during maintenance work, and I haven’t heard much about this problem in the valley; but I hear there is a triggering problem outside the valley, âhe said. “And we are looking at the issue of triggering the feed outside the valley,” he said.
âWe have added many substations in the valley in different places, lines are being installed underground and lines are being extended to improve service,â he said.
Demand for the valley is around 300 megawatts at peak times.
According to the authority’s annual report, the total population with access to electricity based on the number of consumers reached 85% of total households in fiscal year 2020-2021, which is calculated at 90% based on the available electrical infrastructure.
The total energy consumption in fiscal year 2020-21 was 7,319 GWh, an increase from 6,529 GWh in fiscal year 2019-2020.
The authority’s hydropower plants, including small power plants, generated 2,810.74 GWh of electricity in fiscal year 2020-21, an increase from 3,021.04 GWh in fiscal year 2019 -2020, according to the report. Total electricity purchased from independent power producers in Nepal was 3,241 GWh, an increase of 8.36% from 2,991 GWh in fiscal year 2019-2020.
Total energy imported from India was 2,826.21 GWh in fiscal year 2020-2021, up 63.45% from 1,729 GWh in fiscal year 2019-20. Total system energy increased by 14.68% to 8,877.95 GWh from the corresponding figure of 7,741 GWh in fiscal year 2019-2020.
Following Nepal’s electricity roadmap, the power company said it is committed to lighting every household in Nepal by 2023 with adequate grid expansion plans throughout the country. country.
For the sake of safety, reliability and aesthetics, underground cable laying works to modernize the distribution system are already underway in various parts of Kathmandu like the distribution centers of Ratnapark, Maharajgunj, Kuleshwar, Kirtipur and Baneshwar.
The contract was signed in fiscal year 2020-21 and survey work has started for the laying of underground cables in Lalitpur and Bhaktapur.
Ghising is widely credited with bringing Nepal out of the Dark Ages, as under his leadership the country managed to get rid of the hour-long power cuts. It may have been helped by several factors, but many say it managed the power available to distribute to ensure an uninterrupted power supply.
He was only recently appointed head of authority by the government of Sher Bahadur Deuba, replacing Hitendra Shakya, who appealed to the court to challenge the decision to dismiss him.
“Obviously there is a technical problem, but the problem arose due to the weakness of the management and also because of the peak load,” said an official of the power company who preferred to keep the anonymity. “People thought that the problem would be completely resolved after the appointment of Kulman Ghising, but that has not happened so far.”
Consumer rights activists say it is the duty of the authority to ensure uninterrupted power supply.
âFrequent power cuts deceive the consumer,â said Jyoti Baniya, chair of the Consumer Rights Forum, Nepal.
âConsumers have to pay their electricity bills without any excuse or face fines if they are late, but when it comes to providing uninterrupted service or quick solutions to problems, there is no has no answer, âhe said. âConsumers are also not compensated for service interruptions,â he said.
âUninterrupted power supply is a critical part of delivering public services, especially at a time when many people depend on it for their office work and students need it to study online,â Baniya said. “The authority must ensure that the service is not affected by natural causes or technical problems; and if that happens, it must react quickly,” he added.
Baniya said the authority should work on infrastructure and human resources so that the service provided is improved.
Salon owner Bashyal said she would have problems if the feeding problem persisted in the coming seasons of festivals and weddings.
The Nepal Electricity Authority, however, said such problems cannot be eliminated right away.
âUninterrupted service is not possible in the country immediately because we do not have a high reliability system. But we made it better, âGhising said. âIt will take time to provide an uninterrupted supply. “