Kathmandu; The problem of power cuts is increasing all over the country including Kathmandu valley. This problem has been occurring for years, not only today. Short-term works have also been done to overcome this. However, it is now necessary for the Nepal Electricity Authority to find a sustainable solution. There is no alternative to expanding the broadcasting network and making extensive improvements to the distribution system.
Along with this, there is another challenge of increasing power generation and consumption. It is estimated that 500 MW of electricity will be wasted in the coming monsoon. For this reason, efforts should be made to increase electricity consumption by expanding the internal market and to enter the Indian market as much as possible. Laxman Biyogi, on the behalf of Urja Khabar had a brief conversation with Hitendra Dev Shakya, the Acting Managing Director of NEA, about the electricity market which has been the subject of recurrent issue:
Load shedding was the main challenge of NEA in previous days. What do you see as today’s challenge?
Challenges are increasing every day in the distribution of electricity, whether in rainy or winter months. There is the same problem in importing electricity from India or supplying from east to west and from west to east. The transmission lines will have to be constructed soon. Mainly, Hetauda-Dhalkebar 400 KV transmission line has become necessary. Due to this, the electricity of Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower cannot be distributed to Nepal.
There is obstruction by locals for this transmission line in three places. In some places, deforestation is also a problem. By resolving the problem of forest, the work will move forward from our side till nest Ashad. But local obstruction has become a major problem. Now the main challenge in distribution is within the Kathmandu valley. The main problem is to enter in 132 KV and 66 KV. Distribution lines of 11 KV and 33 KV have been loaded. That’s why a problem was seen in Baneshwor a few weeks ago.
Currently there have been more problems in the distribution systems. Is it that the NEA management has not shown agility or has not been able to speed up the work?
As the load increases in the valley and other places during the winter months, there was a problem in proper balancing before. Now it has increased. There are many obstacles to overcome .After loading the transformer to Baneshwor substation for a few days, about 7 megawatts were transferred to Patan Substation.
There won’t be problem in the winter of the current year. It may happen again next winter, but before that we have to do the necessary work. While working, there may be line interruption in some places again. If we improve the lines of Bhaktapur, Baneshwor and Patan, the problem of second winter will be solved except this year.
After this, another arrangement should be made for the next year. The wire, which is to be brought to Teku from Syuchatar in 2080 BS should be made of quality and high capacity. Failure to do so will result in a sensitive issue. Demand is so high that long-term planning is needed to extend high-capacity lines to the inner city. Work is going on but it may or may not be as per the plan of NEA! It depends on how much the locals will support or disregard the wire extension.
In terms of power supply, Kathmandu valley has been kept at the center. Short-term work is being done now. Where the long-term planning work is going on?
There is no problem for this winter till Falgun. I have already talked about the preparations for next winter. What is to be done after that is 132kv line extension. Arrangements will have to be made to supply up to 2000 megawatts in the valley for 3 years and beyond. A study is being carried out by NEA Engineering company on the issue of carrying 132 KV line through Bagmati and Bishnumati Corridors.
There are plans to upgrade the line from Balaju to Lainchaur and build a substation there. At the same time, it is planned to make a substation (compact station) on the bank of the river, where everything can be kept in one ropani of land. The study and design has been done accordingly. If the land found on the river bank and such a substation could be built, even the densely populated areas of the city could be supplied with quality electricity for ten years or so without any hassle. If there is no land available for substation, other alternatives should be sought. Now, our guess is that we will get land and support from the locals as well.
You have pointed out that force load-shedding can happen when the distribution system is weak. Should we face such a problem next winter?
If the line does not support, the load may need to be cut in some places, but not as force load-shedding. This year will not be such a problem. There won’t be problem in next winter as we are working for it. After that, there is a problem to arrange supply through 132 KV line for the winter.
The program is moving forward. The contract for construction of 132 KV line has also been signed. The work is not allowed to go on due to local reasons. If the high-capacity line cannot be expanded as planned, then nothing can be said about such uncertainty.
Compared to the same time last year, the load seems to have increased this year. But, due to Covid 19, many industries are not able to run. However, the load on households seems to have increased. Is consumption on the household side only increasing the load?
At present, the load of Kathmandu valley has not increased much. Despite the increase in energy consumption, the average demand is not skyrocketing. The high demand is 400 MW which is about the same as of last year. It is becoming somewhat difficult to manage the load as per the demand. There won’t be such problem next year. Transmission and distribution lines should be constructed along with substations where necessary.
It is planned to build a 132 KV substation in Teku. This is planned to be completed by the next Dashain-Tihar. If this can be done, there will be no problem in the next winter. There is a plan to build a substation in Chobhar but no land has been found. If a substation is built there, the growing problem will be reduced. After that, it is planned to bring 132 KV line from Chobhar to Lagankhel substation. After the completion of these programs, there will not be problems for 2-4 years.
There is a public concern that load shedding has started when the power cuts happen time and time again. Is the problem of tripping increased compared to last year?
Tripping has not increased compared to last year. Looking at the statistics of all the substations in the Kathmandu valley, the tripping has halved compared to last year. The frequency of trips from overload has also decreased. The period of power cuts during maintenance at different times has also been reduced. Despite this, there is a suspicion that more has happened. Many are now doing office work from the internet. There is pain even when the electricity cut for a short time.
This was not the case last year. People didn’t even know when the lights went on even for an hour. Somehow, they would manage. The demand for inverters may have increased due to different circumstances. Another thing that the inverter dealer caused load shedding is the wrong statement.
Shutdown and tripping have decreased. While saying this, the question arises that even this should not have happened. We are working on changing wires, transformer maintenance and upgrading. It takes some time. Shutdown is compulsory while working. We could not shutdown for too long. During Covid Pandemic, as schools and colleges were not opened, academic activities had to be done through internet. Different office works also had to be done through internet. Due to this even the small problem is considered as a big issue. Now, after a while or when the situation becomes a little easier, we have to work even if we have to do shut down in a greater extent. At present, shut down is done only in necessary places. After Mangir-Poush, the load starts to increase and there are trips in places. It used to happen before too.
How do you reassure the public that these problems are being reduced and will not be repeated in the upcoming days?
The same thing is happening today in the field of staffing or managing staff in the field as it used to be in the past. Monitoring from the high level and considering the condition of substation and grid is done from time to time. Performance agreement has been signed with the employees. EPR (Encouragement) has been implemented since last Falgun.
There is no any question of not being alert and conscious in staff management. So, we don’t have to worry about load shedding. The supply is increasing. Now it is seen that demand will not increase as per the supply. That is why there is no problem in supply or electricity flow. Along with distribution there is another challenge to consume or increase the electricity generated.
It is estimated that about 500 MW of electricity will be wasted in the coming monsoon. How do we manage in this situation?
We can’t say now how much more electricity there will be in this monsoon but we are estimating. If we fail to provide while planning or arranging to sell in India, we will be penalized. There is no guarantee that we will have access to trade.
India’s energy broker NVVN submitted a bid on our behalf to sell 25 MW for the Pilot but we did not succeed. We have to compete again and again. The Indian market will not be easy for us in the days to come.
If we have to extra power in wet season, we have to sell our electricity compromising on the price. We can find out the price at which we can sell electricity in India after competing two or three times. We have to sell about 20 hours of electricity at lowest rate for 3-4 months.
If we get access to the Indian exchange market, we can sell at whatever price. If we do not get access to the exchange market there is very low chance of selling 20 hours of electricity in a bilateral agreement. In order for this to happen, the other side had to ask for 20 hours of electricity. We can sell by agreement according to the demand.
On the other hand, the electricity produced in the monsoon can be sold by negotiating directly with Indian Industries. If they get 20 hours of electricity in cheap price, they may buy it. Efforts are being made for this too. In this way, some amount of electricity can be sold until the demand in the country increases. The best thing is to add industries and increase demand within the country, we have to work for this.
Is it possible to increases the demand in the domestic industries immediately rather than exporting to India?
A study has shown that there is a demand of 4-5 megawatts in the industrial sector. At the same time, we are trying to meet the demand of the industrial sector. We are also working to collect the expected demand for now or after a year. The demand collected by the Directorate of Distribution and Customer Service from the industrial corridors of the country is about 500 MW as demanded by the industries but we have not been able to distribute it.
The reason behind this is that 11KV or 33 KV feeder and 132 KV line could not be carried on. We have done the work of double circuit line, quality expansion where there is normal wire loading. Apart from this, a comprehensive plan will have to be made on how to supply electricity to supply 500 MW load from other options as well. The amount of load comes from the industries based on the work done by us.
The second part is to encourage industrial sector to create additional demand itself. What can be done in various places: replace the motor or replace the boiler with a furnace? We can manage 1000 megawatts of load in 2-3 years if we work to create new demand.
What we have also said is that we are forming a task force with the goal of 'adding 1000 megawatts of industrial load'. We are giving this responsibility to the task force. Now, the industries will not ask for electricity we will supply according to the demand.
Is it possible to increase some load this year or on next wet season?
That stopped 400–500-megawatt demand should be proceed accordingly. Studies should be done on the issue of supplying electricity by making alternative arrangements in the areas where the line is narrowed or constricted, whether it can be taken from the nearest substation or feeder!
Cost estimate and contract will have to be done by conducting geographical survey. This work cannot be done till next Ashad. While working it may take time till Shrawan, Bhadra or Ashwin. But if we do, we also know that the load is coming and it becomes easier to plan. This makes much easier for the next year. Moreover, we cannot make an immediate line when we have load. similarly, it takes about a year and a half to bring an industry that consumes electricity.
For instance, speaking of urea fertilizer factory, it can consume about 100 megawatts. Another thing is that it is needed to produce hydrogen for the industries and generate electricity from it again, this is possible. Some studies have been done on this by NEA Engineering company. It can be continued.
If more electricity is produced in the coming wet season, will it be spilled?
Some amount was also spilled in last year's monsoon at 10 PM to 4-5 AM. If it cannot be sold this year, it will be spilled to some extent. Most importantly, we should give effort for selling rather than saying 'we could not sell' because all the necessary procedures or treaties have been agreed upon this.