KATHMANDU, Feb 19: Balkrishna Riya, a father of two, is not sure when he will construct a house on 3 aana plot he recently bought in Gattaghar, Bhaktapur. However, the 38-year-old, who owns a small business, is quite certain that if he builds one, it would be totally unaffected by the regular power outages.
“If it takes just one to two percent of the total cost of construction to install a solar power system, why would I mind it,” said Riya.
“I have consulted at least five companies here that provide solar solutions and they tell me that if I spend around 1.5 to 2 lakhs, the panels will work for at least 25 years and the battery for minimum 5 years.”
Riya came to know about solar energy solution during the energy week organized by Alternative Energy Promotion Center (AEPC) a few weeks ago in the capital. He was told at the exhibition that by spending around Rs 70,000 to Rs 80,000 he could keep at least five rooms illuminated and a TV and a computer running.
“It really appealed to me. It may take some time for me to build a house, but I have already spoken with various companies to know more about solar solutions. This will help me both in terms of cost and quality when I make a final bargain for installation,” says Riya.
20 KW solar system in a house at Naikap.
It is necessary to be extremely careful about the type of solar system you are installing, notes a textile engineer Jaya Dev Baidhya. Baidhya´s is the first among 196 civil homes in Thecho, Sunakothi to install a solar system.
“The problem of load shedding will never be resolved. Using inverter is simply not good as it consumes double power. So I installed this solar system four years ago and it has really been rewarding,” shares Jaya Dev. He installed the system of 540 watt for Rs 200,000 in 2008, which was later followed by other homes in the colony. Today, there are around 50 homes with solar system, according to Baidhya.
“Initially people thought I was foolish to spend so much money on the system. But now people have realized that you need not have to bother about load shedding if you have a solar system installed at your home,” explained Baidhya.
AEPC does not have exact data on how many houses in the valley are powered by a solar system. On the basis of the data provided to it by the companies, it assumes that it has been fixed at least in 15,000 rooftops.
“The number is negligible compared to 600,000 houses in the valley,” said Govinda Raj Pokhrel, executive director of AEPC. “It has now become much cheaper to install solar system as there has been reduction in the prices due to increased production of panels and other parts.”
Solar power collector in Baidya´s house in Sunakothi.
According to him, in light of the power problem, the government should be serious about promoting other options to meet the huge energy needs. “On the one hand, there is haphazard use of invertors, generators, consumption of petrol, diesel and so on. On the other hand, we have the option to promote alternative energy. Such things can be done under public-private partnership,” he said.
Giving cross subsidies, incentives or loans to consumers, attracting the private sector investment, making installation of a solar system mandatory, among others, can help reduce the energy problem, Pokhrel said.
He further argued that making a massive investment in solar energy production comes to be a lot cheaper in the long run compared to generating power through hydro, which he said was another important reason why the government should consider the option seriously.
“It costs around Rs 100 million to generate 1 mega watt of power through solar system, whereas it requires Rs 150 to 200 million to generate the same amount of energy through hydro,” Pokhrel explained.
K R Khanal, chairperson of Ultra Solar Energy, one of the leading solar system installer in the valley, the demand has significantly increased over the years. “However, due to lack of awareness people are quick to buy invertors rather than invest in ´environment friendly and free energy´,” he said.
He added that right business motive of the private sector and suitable policy of the government for tapping the solar energy can do wonders to solve the power woes of the valley.
Yug Tamrakar, managing director of Solar Electricity Company, said with the rich in the city preferring invertors, alternative energy solutions have suffered a setback.
“If they are made aware of the benefits of installing solar system, they will not use invertors,” he said. However, Tamrakar added that the drawback of the solar system is that it does not work on cloudy days.
Pokhrel, the APEC director, assumes that replacing invertors with solar system alone can reduce 25 to 30 percent load shedding in the valley. “If those who can afford solar system switch to it, others can enjoy uninterrupted supply of power,” he stressed.
Similarly, Raju Laurade, assistant director and climate carbon manager at APEC, blamed the lack of vision in the government for peoples´ attraction to invertors rather than solar and other alternatives. “It is high time that we prepare effective policy for urban electrification,” he said.
AEPC provides up to 40 percent subsidy on solar photovoltaic system in rural areas, which it hopes to expand to urban zones as well. Similarly, while there are around 200 solar companies, just 37 have been certified by AEPC so far. “We certify companies on the basis of the quality of service and products they provide,” Laurade said.