Ex-PM Khanal grossly exaggerates Nepal’s hydropower generation potential

Sanjog Shiwakoti / June 9, 2020

Former prime minister Jhalanath Khanal on the Hot Seat program on Image Channel Television.

On the Hot Seat program of the Image Channel Television aired on June 4, senior leader of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) and former prime minister Jhalanath Khanal spoke in length about the ongoing controversy over the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) grant. The US$ 500 million grant offered by the US is meant for laying electricity transmission lines and roads upgrade. While talking about transmission lines, Khanal, who is also the convener of the three-member task force formed by ruling party to study the MCC grant, made a big claim about Nepal’s hydropower generation potential.

He claimed: “Water is one of the most important resources in our country. We have huge potential to generate hydroelectricity. Experts say that there is a possibility of generating 100,000 megawatts.”

South Asia Check has examined Khanal’s claim.

That Nepal can generate 83,000 megawatts of hydroelectricity has been one of the myths that has persisted in the country for several decades. But in recent years, such figures have come under scrutiny from researchers in the field.  In an article published in The Kathmandu Post on November 11, 2010, researchers Saroj Dhakal and Olivia Gipner argued that there should be a proper study to find out the exact figures regarding Nepal’s capacity to generate hydropower from its water resources.

The Water and Energy Commission (WEC) is a government body that commissions studies and makes recommendations to the government on water resources development. The Electricity Demand Forecast Report (2015-2040) published by the Secretariat of the Water and Energy Commission in January 2017 has classified the hydropower capacity into three categories. According to the report, theoretically, Nepal’s hydropower generation potential is 83,000 MW. Likewise, technically, the generation potential is 45,610 MW but the economically feasible potential is just 42,133 MW, according to the report.

Source: The Electricity Demand Forecast Report (2015-2040) of the Secretariat of the Water and Energy Commission.

According to a news report published on Ratopati online on February 12, 2018, a study commissioned by the Water and Energy Commission Secretariat and conducted by consulting firm Silt & Cmat, had shown that Nepal’s hydropower generation potential is 82,980 MW. However, the commission has not yet published the report on its website and has not mentioned the figures anywhere.

Whereas, according to the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank, Nepal’s hydropower generation potential is more than 50,000 MW.

Likewise, according to the ‘fact sheet’ on the US Agency for International Development (USAID) website which was updated on March 26, 2018, “It is estimated that Nepal has the economically viable potential to put in place over 40,000 megawatts (MW) of hydro generation capacity.”

Various official reports of the government and international expert organizations show that practically, Nepal has the capacity to generate between 40,000 and 50,000 MW of hydropower. During the interview, Khanal didn’t cite any experts or reports to back his claim that Nepal can generate 100,000 MW of hydropower.  Therefore, on the basis of Nepal’s government reports and studies by international organizations, we have concluded that Khanal’s claim is nothing more than an exaggeration.

This material is copyrighted but may be used for any purpose by giving due credit to southasiacheck.org.