Global Warming Impacts in South Asian Regions

Global warming is the gradual rise in earth’s surface temperature due to the effect of greenhouse gases released from burning fossil fuels and deforestation. Over the period of 1880-2012, the combined land-ocean temperature increased by 0.85° Celsius[1]. Global average temperature is expected to rise between 1.4 – 5.8°C in the next 100 years.

 A recent report by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confirmed that human activities are ‘dominant cause’ of global warming since 1950s (IPCC, 2014).The climate change alters hydrological systems through precipitation change or melting of snow or ice and affects the quantity of available water, seasonal activities, and migration patterns.

In this post, I focus on global warming’s consequences in South Asian regions and the imminent need to collaborate to identify and reduce climate change related risks.

Serious Consequences of Global Warming

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West Seti Project – Opportunities and Challenges

The Investment Board Nepal (IBN) approved China’s CWE Investment Corporation, a subsidiary of Three Gorges Company on April 2015. The CWE Corp will form a joint venture with Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) for the development of West Seti Project. The hydro-project is storage-based with a capacity of 750 MW and costs $1.6 billion. This will be the biggest foreign investment project in Nepal’s history.

The West Seti project was envisioned more than couple of decades ago with the first feasibility study conducted in 1987. There were multiple companies showing interest in the project since then. During the early years, Snowy Mountain Engineering Corporation (SMEC) signed an agreement with the government of Nepal, however the license was revoked at the later date. Government then formed another company, West Seti Hydro Limited, and conducted environmental impact assessment and resettlement action plan in 1997 and later revised in 2007.

The annual electricity production from the West Seti project will be 636 gigawatt-hours (GWh). The project will have 195 m high concrete dam, 6.7 km headrace tunnel, 620m tailrace tunnel covering 2,060 hectare by reservoir. The project will also construct 20.3 km permanent access roads and 132.5 km 400 kilovolt (kV) double-circuit transmission.

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The new developments in Nepal’s hydro sector and Three Gorges Chairman’s recent visit to Nepal provided the Seti project with renewed impetus. The project is going to generate much-needed dry season energy. As it is storage based, it can hold water during the rainy season and utilize it when most of the hydro-projects are generating at 1/3rd of their capacity during the dry season.

The West Seti project will be a great boost for Nepal. The project will be able to provide peak energy at a reasonable cost. The total cost of 750 MW West Seti project is $1.6 Billion – an average cost of $2133/kW. The average capital cost of run-of-river project in Nepal is around $2000/kW. This means that we are getting electricity from storage-based plant and the flexibility of water generation as needed at the same rate as the run-off-river project cost!

Moreover, the storage project can also be used flood control and dry season augmented flow. With the help of dam constructed for the hydro-project, the flow of water in the downstream river can be regulated.

However, there are many challenges associated with this project. First, the project is storage based which requires a large reservoir area and resettlement. Moreover, there will be loss in agriculture land. As the project will hold (store) water for the energy production, especially when the project is not operating, downstream water sharing can be challenging considering that this water is utilized for agriculture and other purposes.

The West Seti project report mentions that the project requires total land of 2,326 hectare (ha) containing 28% of cultivated land and 35% of forests. Another 678 ha will be needed to build transmission lines. The report submitted to ADB mentions that the project will impact 2,421 households directly with an estimated of 1,579 requiring resettlement. The resulting environmental, social, and anthropological impacts of the West Seti project will be huge, thus requires a careful assessment.

Moreover, next set of challenges stem from uncertainty associated with timely execution of transmission infrastructures and market availability for surplus electricity. The CWE Investment Corporation has already asked Nepal government to provide market guarantee for the electricity generated from West Seti Project. Without finding electricity market besides Nepal, it will be challenge for Nepal to utilize all electricity produced (assuming that Nepal’s power demand increases as the rate forecasted by Nepal Electricity Authority). There is a need to create viable alternate electricity market. Evacuating power to India and Bangladesh are possible options. However, we would need India’s cooperation to sell power to Bangladesh as transmission lines go through Indian territory.

The other challenge is associated with building necessary transmission infrastructures. It is not clear who responsibility it is for constructing high-powered transmission lines to evacuate power from West Seti project. The government recently asked Chinese Government for financial assistance, either in form of aid or soft loans, of $400 million to invest in hydro project and transmission lines. The project requires 400 km-long transmission lines to connect the West Seti project to the national grid.

Overall, the West Seti project is excellent from economic point of view. The project will increase Nepal’s national grid capacity substantially. It will also provide much needed dry season energy and help Nepal achieve a reliable and adequate electricity system. However, the project also has many serious challenges mainly environmental, social, and as well as building transmission infrastructures and creating a market for the surplus electricity.

 

Proposed Power Agreement between Nepal and India

There are a lot of ongoing discussions on the proposed power agreement between Governments of Nepal and India. With Nepal’s untapped hydropower resources, India’s power need, and recent changes in Indian politics, the discussions for power treaty is again back on the table. I was lucky enough to get a copy of the draft of the agreement. In this post, I discuss the important points of the agreement and few areas that need clarification.

Both countries realize the importance of meeting electricity demand for socio-economic development and the progress of people. The agreement aims to facilitate cooperation in the fields of power generation, power transfer, grid connectivity, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and power related consulting and research services. More importantly, both countries are emphasizing the importance of developing additional hydropower potential by cooperating in the construction and operation of hydropower.
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Future of Nepal’s Electricity: long-term policy suggestions

Main points

  • Electricity supply and demand varies at different time intervals
  • Electricity supply side is heavily based on renewable sources increasing the challenges of creating reliable electricity system
  • Demand side management programs, storage systems, trade agreements with India can be some of the long-term solutions

Let’s start with few questions: What determines the supply and demand of electricity? Does the demand remain same throughout the year? What about the supply? Is it possible, technically and economically, to generate electricity as required to serve the load? These are few questions to consider before thinking about developing a reliable and adequate electric system.

In this post, I discuss issues that Nepal’s electricity sector may face in future. One of the previous posts discusses the short-term solutions of current power shortage problems. Moreover, the recent post talks about electricity sector’s possible issues in the future.

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CA Election of Nepal: Are parties’ energy sector promises feasible?

The second Constitution Assembly (CA) election in Nepal  is scheduled for Nov 19, 2013 due to the inability to draft a constitution after the first election. What are the election manifestos of the parties? Even though parties are used to making lofty promises during election campaign and not fulfilling most of them after, the manifesto indicates the parties’ future direction. Let’s discuss and compare major political parties’ election manifestos regarding Nepal’s energy and environmental sectors.

Almost all major parties have announced unrealistic plans claiming to eliminate current power shortage problems between 3 – 5 years. The manifestos give priority to the country’s hydropower sector and also aim to exploit renewable sources to increase electricity generating capacity.

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Future of Nepal’s Electricity : Demand Forecast and Possible Issues

Looking at the current power-crisis of Nepal, it is even hard to make future energy plans without addressing present power shortage problems. However, I believe that it’s a high time that we have a long-term electricity plan by keeping the future demand growth in mind.

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Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) estimates that the electricity demand will increase steadily at the average annual growth of 9 % and peak demand will increase by 8.85% in the same period. Energy (kWh or MWh or GWh) is the total hourly electricity demand summed for each year year, whereas system peak load (kW or MW or GW) is the maximum amount of electricity demanded at any given time of the year. For the smooth supply of electricity, the utility company (NEA) has to be able to meet both total annual electricity demand and also be able to handle the peak load demand.
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Nepal Energy in the News: August 15-31

Power wastage amounts to 50m units due to lack of transmission lines (The Kathmandu Post, accessed September 4, 2013)

I have raised the issue about the consequences of lack of transmission infrastructure in Nepal.  NEA reports that the total loss due to insufficient transmission lines in 2012-13 fiscal year is worth of Rs 420 millions. The posts cites Bhuwan Chettri, chief of Load Dispatch Center (LDC), and writes that NEA’s loss was due to the delay  in construction of three power line projects, including Khimti- Dhalkebar (220kv), Suchayatar-Matathirtha-Kulekhani – 2 (132kv) and Bharatpur-Hetaunda (220kv). The delay affected power generated from hydro power projects like Kaligandaki, Marysandi, Madhya Marsyandi, Trishuli, Chilime, Indrawati and Spring Khola to connect to the national grid. The news reiterates the fact that Nepal should focus on building new transmission and distribution lines to accommodate additional generation if it seriously wants to solve the energy crisis.

Power Grid preparing road map for SAARC electricity grid (The Economic Times, accessed August 30 2013)

This is a very welcoming news indeed. An electricity grid connecting South Asian countries will not only increase reliability, but also will help to harness each SAARC nation’s capacities and resources to address growing energy needs in the region. India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are part of SAARC.  The Indian State-run Power Grid is finalizing the construction of transmission line between India and Nepal for transfer of bulk power.

Other News articles:

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