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In Picture: SHEDDING IT: Som Prasad Pahadi of the NEA substation in Lagankhel switches off electricity to Chapagaun for its regular Thursday morning power cut.

Kathmandu, May 27, 2016: As pre-monsoon showers brought much-needed rain this week, the Nepal Electricity Authority reduced power cuts by one hour a day from this week. But consumers still face up to 12 hours without electricity in a country said to be the richest in hydropower in the region.

The five-month Indian Blockade drew attention to this failure to harness hydropower and the growing dependence on petroleum imports. The government announced the Energy Crisis Reduction and Development Decade to end power cuts within a year and generate 10,000 MW of electricity in 10 years. Nepalis have heard these promises before and have ridiculed the targets.

Officials at the Ministry of Finance are finalising the new budget for presentation this weekend. Will Prime Minister KP Oli’s government set aside the resources to end the energy crisis? Will there be incentives for quick solar and wind energy projects? The Ministry of Energy wants Rs 7 billion to supply 1,000 MW by next winter. But mega hydro projects have been delayed by the earthquake and Blockade, and to meet the shortfall, the government is upgrading transmission lines to import another 300 MW from India.

Nawaraj Dhakal, Director of the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre, says the new budget is important because it would be Nepal’s first fiscal planning after the blockade: “We are expecting the budget to restart nearly 300 earthquake-damaged micro hydro projects, and renewable energy subsidy for earthquake survivors.”

International investors are in Kathmandu next week for the Nepal Power Investment Summit 2016 to attract energy partners. Hydropower developers expect policy changes in the budget, including tax incentives for hydropower construction. Khadga Bahadur Bista, President of Independent Power Producers’ Association says: “Because of the quake and blockade we need force majeure incentives for energy projects.”

By Om Astha Rai