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Hydropower Potential in Nepal

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Hydropower is one of the prominent renewable sources of energy in which Nepal has unlimited capabilities. At a time when the world has moved towards clean energy initiative, hydropower remains one of the most promising energy sources over the world. Most countries have already exploited this source of energy with advancements in technology and generating high level of efficiency in generation ability. The nature has blessed Nepal with incredible resources in hydroelectricity generation through its rivers flowing from the lap of Himalayas. The gigantic hydropower potential, if appropriately utilised, will help Nepal to sustain its economic progress over the next decade. 

Hydropower has been envisioned to be a great contributor to alleviation of electricity with its immense export ability. Nepal, blessed with immense source of water resources, has a huge hydropower potential. In fact, the perennial nature of Nepali rivers and the inclined gradient of the country’s topography provide perfect preconditions for the development of some of the world’s largest potential hydroelectric projects in our country. And to top this, we must look no further for surplus use. Sandwiched by two booming economies that have huge responsibility towards lessening carbon emission, Nepal needs to look further for hydroelectricity exports. 

Current estimates are that Nepal has approximately 42,000 MW of economically feasible hydropower potential. However, the present situation is that Nepal has developed only close to 1000 MW of hydropower. Projects surpassing over a thousand MWs are currently under construction with Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower Project (456 MW), the biggest hydropower project in Nepal, soon to come under operation. Let us look at the hydropower potential of several basins of Nepal in the table below.[1]

River BasinsTheoretical Potential (in MWs)Economical Potential (in MWs)
Saptokoshi2235010860
Sapta Gandaki206505270
Karnali Mahakali3618025125
Southern4110878
TOTAL8329042133

The major contributors to the current generated electricity are Nepal Electricity Authority (also known as NEA), Independent Power Producers and some local bodies. The current generation capacity suggests tells that bulk of the economically feasible generation has not been realized yet. So far, Nepal has been able to utilize about 2 percent of the economically viable hydropower potential. This shows a huge scope for hydropower development in

the country. Besides, the multipurpose benefits have not been realized from the development of its rivers. The value of hydropower is not limited to electricity generation. The benefits can be applied to flood control, irrigation, water supply and water tourism. The country that bores witness to regular floods disaster, hydropower projects can contribute a lot towards its mitigation.

Developing a hydropower does not come without costs. There are massive investment costs involved upfront along with some unfavourable environment impacts. Proper due diligence and environment impact assessment can reduce a lot of its risks so that this carbon free electricity potential can be utilised to the utmost potential. Nepal plans to upgrade its status from least developed to a developing country in the next two years. For this, development of various upcoming businesses and industries can be backed with this efficient and reliable energy source. Investment costs may be high for hydropower development but its long-term costs specially in regards to maintenance are very promising.

Various governments formed since the past decades have come up with repeated plans to tap this potential including its generation capacity in their five and a ten-year strategy time and again. Yet, proper bureaucratic structure in place has lagged to develop projects efficiently. We must believe there is a hope of light in the country that was reeling from load shedding only five years ago. We sure believe that there is a light at end of tunnel and soon we shall economically prosper reaping its benefits at the highest efficiency level. 

References

  1. https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/publication/612641/hydropower-development-economic-growth-nepal.pdf
  2. https://www.nea.org.np/admin/assets/uploads/annual_publications/Generation_2076.pdf
  3. https://www.np.undp.org/content/nepal/en/home/operations/projects/poverty_reduction/snpc/nepal-braces-for-graduation-from-an-ldc.html
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