Nepal, May 22 -- Just three weeks ago, the Nepal Electricity Authority was imposing power cuts in the industrial belts citing reduced supply of power from India amid an energy crisis in the southern neighbour.
On Saturday, the state-owned power utility faced spilling of power as demand slumped due to disruption of supply as several transmission towers in Bharatpur and other places were felled by storms.
"About 200MW of electricity was wasted on Saturday morning," said Kul Man Ghising, managing director of Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA). "We could not supply about 50MW in Bharatpur alone while supply was disrupted in many other parts of Tarai."
When power spilled on Saturday, Nepal imported only 40MW of electricity from India, one of the lowest imports from the southern neighbour in recent weeks, according to the power utility body.
Officials at the NEA, however, say increased production as a result of rains in recent days is mainly responsible for the spilling of power though disruption caused by storms also contributed to the situation to some extent.
For example, the 456MW Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower Project is producing 350MW on average in recent days from an average production of 165MW in Baishakh (mid-April to Mid-May), according to Bigyan Shrestha, chief executive officer of Upper Tamakoshi.
Average power production from the country's largest operating project was 140MW in Chaitra (mid-March to mid-April), according to Shrestha.
It is a Peaking Run-of-the-River project. In such a project, power is produced in full capacity during the peak hours while water is collected at other times.
"In fact, melting of ice in April and rainfall in recent days increased water levels in the river which helped to increase power generation," said Shrestha. "The project will operate in its full capacity by mid-June."
Not only the Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower Project, some other major hydropower projects are also operating in their full capacity, according to the NEA.
Ghising said that 144MW Kaligandaki, 69MW Marsyangdi and 70MW Middle Marsysangdi have been generating power at their maximum capacity.
Now, power generation from the domestic hydropower project has reached around 1300MW, according to Ghising.
Nepal's average peak-hour demand for power stands at around 1700MW, according to the NEA. But on Saturday, peak demand stood at 1,374MW as it is a holiday. "In the next couple of weeks, we will be in a position to export electricity," said Ghising.
The NEA in early May called bids from Indian buyers for long-term power purchase agreement to sell 200MW power from July 1 to November 29. The power utility body has secured approval from Indian authority to export 364MW of electricity.
"We are installing equipment and are making arrangements to enable Indian authorities to see how our power projects generate electricity in real time before exporting electricity through the power exchange market in India," said Ghising.
Besides exporting electricity under long-term PPA, NEA plans to sell remaining electricity out of approved quantity, through the power exchange market.
Nepal faces power shortage during the dry season (winter) while it faces surplus power during the wet season (summer).
The country relies on supply from India during the dry season because run-of-the-river projects cannot produce electricity to their capacity because of reduced water levels in the rivers where the hydropower projects are based.
Nepal currently has only one storage type project-Kulekhani Hydropower Project, which cannot fill the country's demand-supply gap in the winter and the country is forced to import electricity in the dry season.
But, the NEA struggled to secure enough power from India during the dry season as the Southern neighbour also faced power crisis due to shortages and suring prices of coal.
In late March, the state government of Bihar discontinued supply during the night-from 6pm to 6am-and it discontinued supplying electricity even in day time from late April. The southern neighbour has stopped providing electricity at fixed rate from Tanakpur since mid-February. Nepal failed to get an extra 350MW through Dhalkebar-Muzaffarpur transmission line.
The state-owned power monopoly was forced to rely on India Energy Exchange (IEX) market where there is no guarantee that Nepal can secure electricity because of a bidding war amid short supply of power in the market, triggered by a high demand for coal resulting from the Russia-Ukraine war. As a result, the NEA was forced to cut power to the industrial sectors for several weeks starting in late March.
During the period, Nepal used storage type Kulekhani project heavily. "We used 31 metres of the water of 1499m deep Kulekhani reservoir," said Suresh Bhattarai, spokesperson for the NEA.
But Nepal became lucky as snow melting started in April, earlier than usual, which helped to increase water levels in the Himalayan rivers.
Thanks to rising water levels in the snow-fed waters in the last one-and-a-half months along with rainfall in different parts of the country in recent days, the NEA has been able to supply electricity to a large extent.
Several Indian states are cutting power despite rising temperatures because of coal shortages and skyrocketing prices. Seventy-four percent of India's power needs are fulfilled by coal-fired plants.
"Because of hydropower generation, we have got some relief," said Shrestha. "As the monsoon is approaching, we have to be worried about spilling of power." Published by HT Digital Content Services with permission from EKantipur.com. For any query with respect to this article or any other content requirement, please contact Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org