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  Solar mini-grids improve life in Surkhet, Kailali and Baitadi

Locals of Gutu village in Surkhet district have been able to set up businesses and upgrade their living standards after a solar mini-grid was installed here.

Among others, Amrit Acharya, who completed his plus-two this year, has set up a spices industry and poultry business. “I couldn’t have imagined my business ventures if not for the solar mini-grid,” beamed Acharya, adding he has been making a marginal profit.

A general view of solar mini-grid system in Chaukune Rural Municipality of Gutu village, Surkhet. Photo: THT

Parbati Sapkota, owner of a tailoring centre in the same village, echoed similar sentiments.

In a bid to ensure sustainable and clean energy in villages that are yet to be connected to the national grid, the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC) is gearing up to set up solar mini-grid systems across the nation.

According to Madhusudan Adhikari, executive director at AEPC, the centre is now mulling to replicate the project in other villages that are not connected to the national grid yet.

Stating that the solar power is a viable alternative energy source for providing reliable energy access to rural Nepal, he added, “We plan to implement the project in other villages, 90 per cent of which will be funded by ADB grant.”

AEPC is gearing up to instal solar mini-grid system with the support of ADB’s South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation Power System Expansion Project.

The locals contributed 10 per cent of installation cost of the 100-kilowatt-hour solar mini-grid system in Chaukune Rural Municipality of Gutu village, while AEPC covered the remaining 90 per cent through grant received from Asian Development Bank (ADB). The project that is benefitting 229 households cost Rs 500.5 million.

AEPC has also installed a 75-kilowatt-hour solar mini-grid system in Mohanyal Rural Municipality, Rainikot of Kailali district. The total project cost stood at Rs 365.4 million and it has directly benefitted 215 households.

Nawal Singh Rawal, chairperson of Mohanyal Rural Municipality of Kailali district, said the uninterrupted supply of electricity has enabled the locals to set up small businesses and generated jobs as well.

Similarly, a 30.7-kilowatt-hour solar mini-grid system has been installed in Purchaudi Municipality of Baitadi district. Altogether 110 households have directly benefitted from the project that cost Rs 196.8 million.

According to Rabindra Shah, associate project analyst at ADB, said the target is to ensure locals have access to clean energy for sustainable development.

The AEPC has arranged prepaid meters for billing in the solar mini-grid system. This means that consumers have to pay in advance the rate fixed by local electricity cooperatives. At present, the cooperatives have set the per unit charge of Rs 10 for households and Rs 25 for business users.

However, the locals are unhappy with the rate for electricity fixed by the cooperatives.

“It’s (the rate) too high,” said Pyaury Budha of Gutu village.

“The tariff should be revised so that everyone is able to afford to have their homes electrified.”

According to Kripa Ram Adhikari, chairman of Gutu Solar Mini-grid Users’ Committee, the electricity tariff will be revised based on the feedback from the users. “We also plan to bring special rates for those who are financially weak.”

[July 3, 2019 / thehimalayantimes.com]   
 
 
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