“Powering a Sustainable Future: Nepal’s Transition to Clean Energy Amidst Climate Change Challenges”

Jun 01, 2023
Monika Jirel

Globally Nepal ranks fourth, in terms of vulnerability to climate change. Nepal is already experiencing the impacts of climate change such as a change in rainfall patterns, drought, rapid snow melting, increase in extreme climate hazards such as floods and landslides are also seen. The impacts are widely faced in various sectors such as agriculture, health, tourism, biodiversity, and the economy.  Due to poor adaptive capacity and lack of sufficient action, it is anticipated that the impacts may exacerbate in the future.

Nepal has made significant commitments at COP 26, pledging to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045, transition to clean energy for its overall energy consumption and maintain 45% forest cover. The country aims to generate 10,000 MW of electricity by 2028 and ensure 100% electricity access for its population. Additionally, Nepal plans to produce over 550 MW of solar energy by 2024 through private sector involvement, while the National Planning Commission aims for around 4,000 MW of electricity from renewable sources (NPC, 2020) and in the next ten years, the goal is to increase per-person electricity consumption from the present 700 kWh level to 1500 kWh. It exerts the electrification of energy in all sectors, including residential, commercial, transportation, industrial, and agricultural electrification.

Impacts of Climate Change on Hydropower

Nepal has nearly 35% of the total area covered by the Himalayas including 200 peaks of more than 6000 meters and 13 peaks of more than 8000 meters. Our water resources emerge from these Himalayas. The increase in global temperature has caused the fluctuation in precipitation patterns, and snowfall leading to dry season dryer and wet season wetter which results in variability in hydropower generation results in excessive hydropower during the wet season and a deficit during the dry season which is met by the import of electricity from India. 

Extreme events such as floods, landslides, glacial lake outbursts, and high sediment load have increased in recent years and are likely to increase in the future as well. A study suggests that there will be a massive reduction in glacial volume which in turn will decrease the baseline flow available for hydropower. Such impacts can also increase the cost of construction and operation as well. It can be expected that the future hydrological condition may not meet the expected demand rate of the whole country rather it can lose its efficiency. The unsystematic construction of the hydropower projects is likely to get wasted due to the lack of required water flow and also the chances of demolition due to climate hazards can be expected.

Prospects for the development of other energy sources

Currently, the focus of our country is generating hydroelectricity from perennial running water resources to their optimum capacity. In order to meet the net-zero target and 100% access to all the people by 2028 Nepal needs to develop clean energy sources which are mostly from hydropower. Where Nepal plans to increase its renewable energy from 5% to 15% by 2030.

  • Solar Energy: A study suggests Nepal has a huge potential for solar energy. On average, there are 300 sunny days per year and 6.8 sunshine hours per day. The mountain region has higher PV energy yield potential because of high elevation and low air temperature. Therefore, the hills and lower-elevation Mountains with good GHI and lower temperatures are the best regions to develop solar PV systems in Nepal (World Bank, 2017).
  • Bio-gas: Nepal is an agricultural country with 60.4% of the total population engaged in this sector (MoF, 2021). The massive amount of biomass produced by livestock and farming activities makes biogas a suitable technology for cooking for a large population. The number of households with the potential for installation of a household biogas system is about 1.9 million, which represents about 42% of the total households in Nepal.
  • Wind energy: Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC) has conducted a wind resource assessment of Nepal at 50 m above ground level (agl) with a resolution of 5km. The report has shown more than 300 Watt/m² wind power density in Mustang and Solukhumbu, between 200-250 Watts/m² in Humla and Sankhuwasava, Considering only 10% of the area for wind energy generation, Nepal has the potential of producing 3000 MW of electricity from wind (UNEP/GEF, 2008).

As has been shown, Nepal has a significant potential for clean energy sources like solar, biogas, and wind but hydropower remains the mainstay. While climate change poses a significant challenge to hydropower generations, there is a  need to explore and invest in other renewable energy sources as well. However, Nepal is taking steps to ensure sustainable energy development while adapting to the impacts of climate change. These initiatives are expected to lead toward economic growth, employment, and social development in the coming future.