Nepal: expanding access to renewable energy

Energy is central to many economic, social and environmental concerns facing the world today.
Energy is central to many economic, social and environmental concerns facing the world today.

Students of the government-run Shree Tribhuvan secondary school in Kharbang, western Nepal, have been enjoying a constant supply of electricity to their classrooms following the installation of a micro hydropower plant in their village.

Tul Bahadur Thapa, a grade 3 student, says he moved to Kharbang from another school where there was no electricity: “Here, there is a computer lab and my teachers use a projector to teach maths, science, and other subjects. We use calculators in computers. At times, we also play games on the computer.”

Highlights

  • The project has so far provided almost 1 million Nepalese access to electricity from renewable energy sources.
  • By the end of 2012, 15 percent of Nepal’s electricity will be generated from micro and mini hydropower plants.
  • For each new micro hydropower system, 40 new businesses are created.

Established with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the micro hydropower plant is part of a larger project seeking to promote renewable energy sources to provide reliable, low-cost electricity to a large number of isolated, rural communities in Nepal.

From 2009 to 2011, the Rural Energy Development Programme connected over 50,000 households to micro hydropower installations, installed around 15,000 improved cooking stoves and 3,200 solar home heating systems. The successful partnership between the government and UNDP was extended through the Renewable Energy for Rural Livelihood programme, to consolidate best practices and continue scaling up access to energy.

In Kharbang, the community was involved from the inception phase of the project and trained to maintain and sustain the hydropower plant. The project is focusing now on promoting sustainable livelihoods, through technical capacity building and direct financial assistance.

Drona Ban, the owner of a noodle factory he started 2 years ago, says, “I will not go abroad for work again. I make a profit of around Rs. 30,000 every month” (approx. US$ 340). “Without electricity from the micro-hydro, this would have been impossible.”

The health clinic in the village is now providing X-ray services and has a fully equipped pathological lab. It serves on average about 90 patients a day, whereas before, people had to travel at least for a day to get access to these services in neighboring districts.

These successes have led to the model being adopted by the government in its landmark Rural Energy Policy in 2006 and as served as a basis for Nepal's nationwide Micro-hydro Village Electrification Programme, funded by the World Bank.