Govt may invite private players in solar power sector

Govt may invite private players in solar power sector

Different energy mix ideas were floated by various energy ministers in the past decade to address nation’s energy woes. But none of them saw the light of day.

The latest one floated by Minister for Energy Radha Gyawali, however, seems workable. She has floated the idea of inviting bids from private sector to install solar plants and sell electricity to Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA). The minister’s plan is to purchase energy generated by such plants like any other hydropower plants.
A technical team led by NEA’s Deputy Managing Director Sher Singh Bhat has started works to assess the potential capacity of existing substations to connect solar electricity into the national grid. The team has been asked to submit report by September 23.

Two key study panels have suggested to the government to have at least 25 percent solar energy in national grid. Power generation through solar plants is very negligible at present.

Amrit Man Nakarmi, who was deputy team leader of the studies titled Energy Vision by 2050 and Report on National Energy strategy by 2020, has welcomed the minister’s plan. He said solar plants are becoming feasible due to sharp fall in the price of solar panels in the international market in recent years. “Per unit cost of energy generated from solar plant stands at around Rs 11 to Rs 12,” Nakarmi said, adding that the market price of solar panels has fallen by about 50 percent over the past three years.

NEA has been purchasing energy from hydropower developers at the rate of Rs 4.80 per unit for wet months and Rs 8.40 for dry months.

“The technical team that we have formed will assess the capacity of substations and work to add new substations if necessary,” Minister Gyawali told Republica.

The technical team has also been asked to prepare bid documents and study the possibility of leasing out public land to private sector to install solar plants.

Many hydropower projects, including Upper Bhotekoshi (45 MW), have suffered huge damage in the recent earthquake. The chances of these projects resuming power generation in the coming dry months appear slim. This means there will be longer power outage hours compared to last year which saw outages of up to 12 hours a day.

“I have studied renewable energy options in other countries including the one in Gujarat. We are tabling the proposal to invite bids from private sector to purchase energy generated by solar plants and sugar mills and install bio-mass plants in the next meeting of National Development Action Committee (NDAC) led by the Prime Minister,” she said.

The date of meeting has yet to be finalized.

NDAC is a high-level authority to discuss on development agendas and address problems faced by them.

Past energy ministers had also announced plans to install solar plants. But none of them were implemented; some even brewed controversy. But the latest plan looks feasible as the government intends to invite private parties to install solar plants and connect it to the national grid. The plan, if implemented can make significant contribution in dry months as daily peaking hydropower projects can store water during daytime and generate power to meet peak hour demand.

Earlier, Minister Gyawali had unveiled plan to install solar plants by utilizing government resources. But the plan was rejected by the cabinet.

The Sundarighat-based solar plant (680 KW) built by Asian Development Bank is the largest solar power plant in the country. NEA has started works to install solar plants with combined capacity of 25 MW with assistance from the World Bank. The plants are being installed at Pharping, Kulekhani, Trishuli and Devighat. Power generated by these plants is expected to be connected to the national grid by the end of this year.

Source: MyRepublica