Nepal electricity demand soars

Household electricity consumption with the onset of winter, dedicated supply to industries and increase in electric vehicles is fuelling demand for hydropower, reducing wastage.

This is why, despite having started exporting surplus electricity to India last month, the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) is now scrambling to meet a spike in domestic demand.

Electricity demand is increasing in terms of both capacity (MW) and energy (units). On 13 December, the peak demand was 1,539MW, against 1,217 MW the same day last year. This difference of 322MW amounts to a 26.5% increase in peak demand. Also on 13 December, the electricity consumption in Nepal was 27.2 million units, a 28.65% increase from 21.1 million units consumed on the same day last year.

“The 30% increase in peak demand is a significant achievement,” said NEA Executive Director Kulman Ghising. “At the current rate, power demand could reach 2,000MW by July next year.”

The government’s priority has been to reduce the ‘spill’ of electricity from hydropower stations by increasing domestic consumption. It has focused on two areas: initiating policies to increase the use of electric appliances and providing industries with dedicated feeds. Over the last month, Ghising also visited several industrial areas to urge them to switch from diesel generators to electricity from the national grid.

For this, the NEA has been working on the expansion and strengthening of transmission infrastructure as part of their short- and long-term plans. The NEA is also planning the construction of large capacity lines and substations for transmission and distribution by preemptively identifying possible places where electricity consumption may increase.

The figures show that the current spike in demand is primarily due to the use of electric stoves, air conditioners and other household appliances and electric vehicles in Kathmandu, where the peak demand has increased from 293MW last year to 382MW at present. Another area with higher consumption is industries. NEA signed a deal earlier in October to supply 30MW to the Hongshi cement factory in Nawalparasi.

Industries previously reported experiencing 8.8 hours of power outages a week, forcing most factories to use generators, which in turn added to nearly 5% of their monthly expenditure. The government initiative to power the industries hence would be cost-effective to the industry while also reducing wastage.

To meet the current demand, the electricity grid is being supplied with 540MW from NEA's hydropower stations, 529MW from NEA's subsidiaries, 425MW from private power producers  and 25MW imported from India at peak evening hours.

And yet, nearly 10% of Nepal’s population lives without electricity, most of them in Bajhang, Dolpa, Bajura, Jumla and Mugu in western Nepal which are not connected to the national grid.

Experts say it is more beneficial to utilise and sell surplus power inside the country than exporting it to India. Nepal’s private industries are paying up to Rs11 per unit in electrical bills against 4.33 per unit by India.

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