SOUTH WINDSOR, Connecticut — Nepal is a landlocked country in South Asia bordered by India and the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. Though considered one of the least developed nations in the world, its major rivers — the Kosi, Nārāyani and Karnāli — provide Nepal with considerable opportunities for hydroelectric power development. Consequently, Nepal’s hydropower ranks among the highest globally.
The first large hydroelectric project in Nepal began decades ago in Kulekhani. The dam’s installation was funded by the World Bank, Kuwait and Japan in 1982, but Nepal did not see major production increases until relatively recently. Over the past ten years, hydropower production in Nepal has increased from 1,050 to 2,700 megawatts. Over 200 hydropower plants are still under construction, so that number is expected to increase to 9,000 megawatts by 2033.
Nepal’s Energy Consumption
Despite Nepal’s electricity potential, its consumption is the lowest in South Asia: per capita, electricity consumption lingers around 325 kilowatt-hours for Nepal, while Bangladesh consumes 497 kWh and India reaches 1255 kWh.
Still, Nepal’s consumption is on the rise. Electricity sales grew from 3 to 27 percent in the last decade, increasing revenue from $9 million to $64.5 million. That does not mean nonrenewable energy usage is increasing: Nepal Oil Corporation data shows that petroleum gas imports declined 19.2 kg between 2022 and 2023. Thus, a transition to sustainable energy usage is in progress.
As a clean, renewable energy source, hydropower offers sustainable electricity opportunities for Nepal and surrounding nations. Many plans to utilize this potential are underway: 18 projects across Nepal have sought authorization for production as of September 2023. The Muhu Karnali Storage Project is the largest among the ventures, proposing a 1,902-megawatt generator. Another large application came from Samriddhi Energy Limited for a 216-megawatt project in Bajhang. Projects in the Bheri Zone, Chilun River and Sankhuwa River all propose generating over 40 megawatts.
International Electricity Usage
More economically developed nations surrounding Nepal have recognized Nepal’s potential, including India and Bangladesh. As nations focus on reducing fossil fuel dependency, they are becoming involved in Nepal’s hydropower usage. Cross Border Electricity Trade enables Nepal to trade hydrofuel with India, and another agreement allows for exchange with Bangladesh.
Nepal’s new capacity for trade with neighboring nations provides immense economic potential. For instance, India committed to importing 10,000 megawatts of hydroelectric power from Nepal in the next decade. Nepal Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda said this agreement opened a “new door” for hydropower development in South Asia.
Not only does trading hydroelectricity benefit Nepal’s economy, but it also helps neighboring countries’ goals of reducing carbon emissions. India, as the largest contributor to Nepal’s electricity imports, aims to meet half of its energy requirements from renewable sources by 2030. With the help of Nepal’s resources, they are much more likely to accomplish this.
By committing to hydropower development, Nepal is making a positive impact on the global environment. Hydroelectricity is driven by the water cycle, making it clean and renewable. By obtaining energy from hydropower rather than fossil fuels, Nepal can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change.
– Lindsey Osit