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Two different continents, same problem

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Henry Craver's picture
Small Business Owner , Self-employed

As a small business owner, I'm always trying to find ways to cut costs and boost the dependability of my services. To that end, I've become increasingly invested in learning about energy saving...

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  • Jan 25, 2023

Kathmandu, Nepal, and British Columbia, Canada. The two provinces normally wouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath, unless maybe talking about mountain climbing, but at the moment they’re facing the same problem: Enviable hydropower generation that they can’t tap into because of human-produced transmission nightmares. 

The Nepal Electric Authority has spent years now trying to meet the Kathmandu valley’s growing electricity demand with new transmission projects. Both of the projects, however, have been hamstrung and delayed by angry residents, who’ve even had the support of the supreme court at times. 

Here are some excerpts from an article on the debacle in the Kathmandu Post that summarize the projects, their purpose, and the roadblocks they’ve faced: 

“Due to obstruction from the locals who are arguing that the substation should not be built around the human settlements, the future of the 400kV Naya Khimti-Barhabise-Lapsephedi transmission line, which the NEA says is vital for meeting the growing power demands in the Kathmandu Valley, has become uncertain.”

“Due to a delay in completing the construction of the Naya Khimti-Barhabise-Lapsephedi transmission, the NEA has failed to bring the power generated from the country’s largest 456MW Upper Tamakoshi Project directly to the Kathmandu Valley. After the Upper Tamakoshi came into commercial operation in August 2021, its power has been taken to Dhalkebar from where electricity is being transmitted to the eastern region as well as Kathmandu. “Because of the long distance, the NEA has higher power leakages,” said Dirghayu Kumar Shrestha, chief of the Transmission Directorate at NEA.”

“Shrestha said there is hardly any transmission line project in Nepal that has not faced hindrances and that not even a single project has been completed without time and cost overruns. 

Other projects are also facing different problems from different sectors, according to the NEA.

For example, the under-construction 220kV Bharatpur-Bardaghat Transmission Line Project has remained incomplete as the locals of Dumikas, Nawalparasi (Susta East) have been obstructing the construction of two transmission towers in the area.”

Meanwhile, in British Colombia, BC Hydro braces for similar hurdles. The power company recently announced beginning a process to twin the 500,000 volt power line between Prince George and Terrace. This development comes as the company finishes an upgrade to the existing P.G-Terrance line which is expected to boost capacity by 500 megawatts. 

It’s hard to overstate the importance of this project. In addition to meeting new demand and increasing reliability, the transmission project would reduce the region’s dependency on fossil fuels. As it stands, despite great hydro resources, the province gets only 20 percent of its total energy from clean sources, with 10 per cent from biofuels and the remaining 70 per cent from fossil fuels, according to this article in Business Intelligence for B.C.

Sounds like something that the world, Canada, and especially B.C. would want to get done as soon as possible right? BC Hydro president/CEO Chris O’Reilly says that the project can’t realistically be started until next decade:

“It is a long project and it depends on the nature of the regulatory proves and the feedback we get, particularly from First Nations, but these kind of lines can take eight to 10 years, which is why we want to get going and start the conversation,” he said.

The way communities around the world rally together to stifle transmission development is impressive. The problem, however, is that this activism hurts the very communities it seeks to protect. Transmission lines are very rarely the products of corporate greed. Power lines are not Purdue Pharmacy Oxy factories. They are vital infrastructure whose development right now is usually necessary to meet new demand, boost reliability, and facilitate the transition to clean energy. As an industry, we need to figure out how to make people understand this.

Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on Jan 26, 2023

Well said. The US northeast has similar challenges with respect to hydropower from Canada. 
Democracy is awkward and messy. But, in the end, the people will get the point.

Henry Craver's picture
Thank Henry for the Post!
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