Gagan Shrestha was cooking lentils one fine evening last week when the cooking gas ran out. Fortunately for him, he had a replacement on hand.
“I recently bought an induction hob for Rs 4,500, so I had nothing to worry about,” Shrestha told the newspaper. Transfer the pot to the heater and continue cooking.
But then another idea came to his mind. What if the electricity goes out? But that did not happen, and the 34-year-old auto mechanic from Balajo was able to enjoy a hearty dinner that evening.
Shrestha said he will keep an extra cylinder of cooking gas from now on, just in case.
Housewife Shri Thapa has a similar story.
“I tried to cook rice a few times with electricity, but there are frequent blackouts. I have no plans to buy an induction cooker,” Thapa, 49, said. “During rush hour in the office, I can’t risk a blackout. For me, cooking gas is reliable.”
Thapa has to prepare meals on time because her husband needs to work and the children have to be at school on time.
Last July, the 456MW Upper Tamakushi Hydropower Project began generating electricity, turning energy-starved Nepal into a power-surplus country during the summer season.
The station is the largest in the country, but due to a poor distribution network and outdated infrastructure, the electricity supply is erratic.
“The electricity is unreliable,” said Thapa, a resident of Chalnakhil.
The erratic supply prevented Nepalese from switching to electricity from liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) to do the cooking, leaving the country completely dependent on imported fuel.
For the state-owned company Nepal Oil, the cooking gas sector is a big money maker. But for the country, it is a loss.
Decades ago, when Nepal was experiencing electrical distress, government policy was to focus on promoting clean energy. LPG was the best option to prevent people from burning firewood and causing environmental degradation.
In 1995-1996, Nepal was importing 18,600 tons of LPG annually. in 2000-01, Based on reportsOnly 7.7 percent of Nepalese households use LPG as their primary cooking fuel.
The Nepalese started using LPG to a large extent from 1995 to 1996 when it was officially introduced as an alternative to kerosene in urban and semi-urban areas.
Then the separation of loads began, at the same time the government began to impose restrictions on the collection of firewood. Then the demand for LPG took off, reaching 115,813 tons in 2008-2009, and continued to rise.
In the past two and a half decades, LPG imports jumped 2,466 percent, according to Nepal Oil Corporation.
In 2020-2021, Nepal spent 36 billion rupees to import 477,422 tons of LPG. The LPG import bill is expected to double by the end of the current fiscal year.
According to the Ministry of Customs, Nepal imported 441,363 tons of LPG worth 52 billion rupees in the first 10 months of the current fiscal year ending in mid-May.
LPG is becoming more expensive. Sometimes it is not readily available, and consumers have to wait for weeks. Despite the trouble, Nepalese consumers are still reluctant to cook food using electricity.
according to Alternative Energy Promotion Centerthe cost of an LPG cylinder is 1,375 rupees as of mid-2020 and given that this is enough for 30-60 days for a family of four, such a family would spend 8,250 rupees annually on fuel.
In terms of electricity, unit costs in Nepal are higher than in many South Asian countries, which discourages households from adopting it for culinary uses, the center said.
but this is not all. Some consumers have pointed out that electricity is actually cheaper than LPG but its supply is unreliable, and households perceive it to be higher in cost, according to the center’s report.
On May 22, the price of LPG rose by Rs 200 to Rs 1,800 per cylinder. Despite the rise, the fuel monopoly says it can still afford a A loss of Rs 879.75 per cylinder of liquefied petroleum gas sold.
Nepal’s imports of petroleum products – cooking gas, gasoline, diesel, kerosene and jet fuel – jumped to 243 billion rupees in the first 10 months of the current fiscal year, according to the customs ministry.
The country imports petroleum products in huge quantities, and calls are growing to replace LPG with electricity, especially in the kitchen.
It is time to switch to electric cooking from LPG, said Sushil Bhattari, deputy general manager of Nepal Oil Corporation. “The prices are going up. We don’t know when that streak will end.
We cannot provide subsidies for LPG. The price of LPG should be raised as per the cost price. However, the government can provide subsidies to families to encourage people to switch to electric cooking.
The government has also talked about promoting electric cooking in its area Policies and Programs for the Fiscal Year 2022-23 It was unveiled on Tuesday.
Policies and programs state that “the electricity tariff will be revised in order to increase electricity consumption and gradually eliminate the use of LPG.”
In order to encourage the use of electric ovens and other electrical goods in the kitchen, the Electricity Regulatory Authority has reduced the electricity tariff for households using 150 units to 250 units per month at 50 baisas per unit to 9.50 rupees, starting in November. 17.
But consumers say that this is peanuts.
Stakeholders stated that tariff cuts alone will not be enough to promote electric cooking.
said Subarna Prasad Kabale, managing director of the Ajummery Bikas Foundation, a social enterprise that provides expert advice on energy to be used in homes, individuals, and communities.
The state-owned Electricity Authority of Nepal knows that electricity can be cheaper, and it also knows that people are suffering from erratic power supplies. But so far, consumer complaints have not been addressed.
Cole Man Gising, managing director of the Nepal Electricity Authority, said it was essential to ensure that the electricity supply was uninterrupted to encourage people to switch to electric cooking.
LPG cannot be replaced overnight. If people switch to electric cooking from LPG, it will lead to increased demand for loads.” “But since there is no proper infrastructure, it is not immediately possible to provide uninterrupted electricity supply on demand.”
Ghising said they would require an additional 500-600 megawatts if all LPG cylinders were to be replaced in the Kathmandu Valley.
“Therefore, we have to develop more infrastructure – ie transmission lines, distribution systems and substations – to ensure that there is no power outage,” he said. “For this, our current resources are not enough.”
According to experts, rising cooking gas prices should be considered as an opportunity to switch to electric cooking.
They say that during a crisis or when prices become too expensive, it will be easier to change people’s mindset to switch to electricity.
A large number of people bought electric stoves when there was a shortage of fuel including cooking gas after India imposed a ban on Nepal in 2015 to express its dissatisfaction with the adoption of a new constitution.
“People are looking for alternatives because of the high prices of cooking gas that has created holes in people’s pockets,” Kabale said. “People are also willing to adopt electric cooking as part of a modern lifestyle as well.”
He says a reliable electricity supply is key.
According to a report-Evaluation of Electric Cooking Targets for Nepal’s Nationally Determined Contributions for 2020– Prepared by the Ministry of Forestry and Environment, the reduction of LPG, which Nepal imports from India, would significantly reduce the trade deficit.
According to the report, a middle-class family of five uses an average of seven LPG cylinders per year. After the adoption of electronic cooking, the number drops to three LPG cylinders per year, using electricity and LPG for cooking.
With four cylinders provided per year per household, the existing 515,000 electric stove users could have avoided importing 29,252 tons of LPG in 2018-2019, which is 6.8 percent less than the actual LPG import of 429,609 tons in that year.
Assuming an additional 1 million households will adopt electric cooking by 2025, the country will avoid importing 86,052 tons of LPG that year, the report said.
There has been an increased use of electrical appliances in kitchens, but there has not been a huge leap in their use.
Households use a mix of electric cooking appliances including electric rice cookers, microwave ovens, electric pressure ovens, roti makers, electric kettles, and electric cooktops.
The report said that the private sector sold about 50,000 stoves in the past three years until 2020.
According to a study conducted among select households in Panchal municipality, cooking on induction cooktops was found to be approximately 40 percent cheaper than using LPG stoves.
Another lab study conducted by the Center for Energy Studies showed a 42 percent savings when cooking on an induction appliance compared to cooking with LPG.
Besides being a cheaper option, the government has started to prioritize electric cooking in its policies.
The Department of Energy’s Energy White Paper talks about promoting electric cooking in 100,000 households each year, and the scheme is included in the 15th Five-Year Plan and Alternative Energy Promotion Center programs.
However, the Ministry of Forestry and Environment report pointed to a number of challenges in promoting the use of electric cooking.
“Managing peak load remains a challenge due to people’s lack of confidence in the reliability of the electricity supply during cooking hours,” the report says.
Gissing said improving electricity reliability by improving infrastructure was a major priority for the state-owned company.
“If all kitchens switched to electric cooking, the energy demand nationwide would grow by about 1,000 megawatts. We have to prepare the infrastructure to meet that demand.”
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