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Debunking the myths in Hydropower Sector of Nepal with Gyanendra Lal Pradhan, Hydropower specialist and entrepreneur.

Born in the beautiful city of Bandipur-Nepal, Er. Gyanendra Lal Pradhan is Hydropower Specialist and Entrepreneur by profession. Being a veteran of the Hydropower sector in Nepal, Mr. Pradhan has devoted around four decades of his life to this sector. He entered this sector as the Chief Engineer of Nepal Power Engineering in 1988, and after that he has been involved in numerous projects. To name a few we have: Jhimruk Hydropower Project (HDP), 60 MW Khudi HDP, Baramchi HDP, Charnawati HDP, Lower Modi HEP, Phalakhu HEP etc. Similarly, he also has contributed to this sector by taking executive positions of companies like Butwal Power Company (2003-2009), Khudi Hydro Limited (2002-2006), Pokhara Distribution Rehabilitation (1990) and so on.

Apart from being a hydropower veteran, he is also one of the prominent figure that comes to mind when we talk of entrepreneurship. He believes that with proper mentorship, the young generation can be the faces of tomorrow, who not just face the change but are capable to be the catalyst of change. When asked why such huge importance is given to having a mentor, he says, “Having the right mentor is 90% job done. You just don’t have your passion and your zeal, with mentor you also have years of experiences and lessons from tons of failure that you won’t need to repeat. You also have shoulder to rest on during times you feel unsure. Basically have the right mentor is like have a soft cushion on a bed of rocks.”

In this back-drop, Aakriti Thakali from Sharesansar visited Er. Gyanendra Lal Pradhan to catch up on new insights and to talk about his experience in the field. The excerpts from the interview are:

Hydropower is just beginning to flourish but there are already talks of solar power being the next big thing- no huge initial investment, no geographical constraints etc., do you think hydropower will be replaced by solar energy before it gets to mature?

Hydropower and Solar are two distinct sectors, which cannot be compared. Firstly because the only output solar produces is the electricity or energy and that too only during sunny days whereas like I explained earlier, the uses of Water are limitless. If we were to see at the energy production only then yes it is cheaper, yes it is less risky, yes it has fewer external constraints – but are we living under assumptions? Of course not and that is why we need to widen our horizon to other uses of water like drinking, cooking, irrigation, hydropower (regular and peakpower) and the list goes on and on.

So rather than get swept away by the irrational fear of getting replaced by Solar, we need to focus now on ENERGY BANKING. For example, the electricity per unit cost in India is variable and constantly changes. For example today (Baisakh 09, 2075) the price range is fluctuating between IRs. 2.2 to IRs 6.9. So if we’re able to successfully implement Energy Banking then we can store our water for now and buy from India and then later when price hits 6.9 we can sell it to India. I’m also personally very proud of the fact that we, Hydro Solutions, are the first to introduce this idea in our country. Through energy banking, Hydropower sector will have the ability to adjust its production based on market demand and price.

Since many Hydropower are under construction there are assumption that there will be excess electricity? If India isn’t interested what alternatives do we have?

First of all, I want to clarify that there won’t be excess energy at least not in the near decades. Currently, what is our economy dependent on for energy? We have petroleum products, woods, bio-wastes, solar, bricket, guitha and hydroelectricity. Taking all these into consideration the composition of electricity is just 3% of the total. This, by rule of thumb, shows we have prospect for more than 30 times more electricity consumption then the current level. However we can’t still rule out the fact that we can’t replace diesel in heavy vehicles, so keeping that margin we still have a lot of room to increase the consumption level. Let me list a few for you:

-You might think that load shedding has gone, but it hasn’t. You have continuous electricity supply at your house, but the industries still have limited hours of operation due to load shedding. So unless all the factories can operate at their full capacity, the idea that load shedding is gone is only half true. Regarding this, we were the first to generate the idea of water storage and peak power production.

-Once the industrial demand is all met, we still won’t have excess electricity because we would be moving towards electrical vehicles, railway in order to control fossil fuel consumption and conserve environment.

-The 3% composition of electricity in overall energy consumption needs to be changed. The first revolution can be brought in the cooking sector. Currently, there are approximately 54 lakh households in Nepal. So if the LPG gas in each house is replaced by a 1 KW induction cooker or electric heater, we’ll be needing 5400 MW extra electricity just like that.

-Then if we’re still producing more electricity than we’ve a lot of hungry neighbors. We have India, if they’re not interested we’ve Bangladesh too.

The second part of this interview will be published tomorrow. Please remain updated with our website to know more about hydropower sector.