Power for the people

I read an inspiring article in TEAR times about bringing power for the people.  The article involved a micro-hydro plant at the village of Mahadevsthan, Nepal.  I’ve researched it a bit more on line and the outcomes are even better than I thought.  There are number of lessons to be learnt here, but first I will give a few details about the plant.  Mahadevsthan is located in the Dhading District of Nepal, its mountainous and reasonably remote and very suitable for micro-hydro.   The system is 26kWp output and was installed in 2008.  According to TEARFUND it powers 550 homes, 3 schools, businesses and a clinic.  The paper I found puts it at less than that at around 200 homes.  So what can we learn from all this in providing more power for the people.

1)  The technology is appropriate for the place.  Solar PV and wind would almost certainly not have worked as well. Nepal has an enormous under exploited hydro resource (about 83GWp, about 42GWp of which would be economically viable).  Its capacity in hydro terms is about 650MWp at the moment along with some thermal plant.  It imports about 25% of its total (rising) demand from India.

2)  This is a classic market failure.  Like many things such as new housing or sewage its not worth investors putting the money in due to very low returns but the benefits as we we will see below are very considerable.   The money came from a variety of sources which included various Nepali development funds (its seems likely to me that this money  was ultimately largely from overseas donors who fund these).

3) There was community involvement.  The villagers were asked about whether they wanted such a system.  They paid for around 21-26% and took out a bank loan.  There was no imposition from outside.  They pay for the electricity – its not free.

4)  Its sustainable although there has been a slight drop in fish numbers in the stream used there has been no other environmental impact.  Looking at the figures above there would be a tendency to think big and go for huge valley flooding schemes.  Far better would be many small schemes such as this initially not grid connected but in time linked up.  The fact that its been going for 10 years is also very encouraging.  Its not fallen into disrepair as so many imposed technologies have in the developing world.

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5) Its had an enormous impact on village life.  The recent paper looked at village satisfaction (very high).  Both it and the TEARFUND article have shown how much its changes life for the better.  Before people lugged kerosene up the mountain for heating and lighting.  It was polluting, added to climate change and was straining peoples eyes.  Now children and adults have access to computers, the internet and mobile phones as well as fridges.  The biggest surprise to me was its time saving aspect.  This meant people did not have to spend hours grinding wheat by hand but minutes.  This has allowed families to start other businesses and improve their income.

This is a classic market failure and TEARFUND is asking people to sign and get the world bank to fund many more of these systems.  Sign here to extend power for the people.

Neil

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