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Editorial: Electrifying Nepal

Editorial: Electrifying Nepal
What’s stopping Nepal, a country with good hydropower potential, from going electric? Before navigating the choppy waters for possible answers, it will be worthwhile to recall in brief what the then Prime Minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba, pledged on behalf of Nepal at the World Leaders’ Summit during the 26th Conference of Parties in Glasgow. While reiterating Nepal’s firm commitment to implementing the Paris Agreement, the PM pledged to decarbonize the national economy in all sectors with the aim of reaching a net zero emission by 2045. During the last 40 years, disasters have caused Nepal physical and economic damage worth $6 billion, he pointed, adding: We will ensure that 15 percent of our total energy is supplied from clean energy sources and maintain 45 percent of our country under forest cover by 2030.

Fast forward World Environment Day (05 June, 2023). In his address on the big day, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal expressed confidence that the day will inspire all concerned to transform into results the several initiatives and commitments the government has made at national and international fora to combat environmental problems. PM Dahal pledged that his government will make the Environment Conservation and Climate Change Management National Council more effective. When it comes to swearing by the green cause, successive governments have not been lagging behind. But the status of implementation of their lofty promises leaves much to be desired.

In this context, government pledges to develop one more cross-border pipeline (Siliguri-Charali), extend the Motihari-Amlekhgunj cross-border pipeline up to Lothar of Chitwan and develop more pipelines for easing oil supply within the country are likely to result in increased consumption of fossil fuel instead of the green energy (hydroelectricity), taking a heavier toll on environmental well-being and public health. India’s per capita energy consumption stands at 1255 MW against Nepal’s 300 MW (approx). Still, Nepal aims to earn big by selling the green energy to a monopsony market, despite reports that consumption of green energy within the country yield multiple benefits, electrifying the economy as a whole, whereas the sale largely benefits the buyers. Therefore, Nepal should focus more on increasing domestic consumption of the green energy. As the transport sector has a huge contribution to Nepal’s greenhouse gas emissions, the government should think seriously—and act—to switch to electric mass transit systems throughout the country, to begin with. Through policy interventions, it should create a conducive environment for the production of vehicles that run on electricity in Nepal itself. On the consumer end, reduced taxes on private electric vehicles like two-wheelers and four-wheelers will provide considerable relief.