Energy access: Right of poor and vulnerable communities in Nepal

KATHMANDU: Nepal has crossed more than 100 years in the history of electrification, yet the access to energy for all is still a big question in some sections of population in the country. Every child dream to be a successful personality in future. The ambition started with encouragement, motivation and guidance from parents. To bring such a dream in a reality in a country like Nepal access to energy is one of the key factors. Lack of access to energy is directly associated with human right. Right to information, right to education, right to water and right to safe housing is hard to receive without access to energy.

Constitution of Nepal has stated Right to environment that includes right to energy. Sustainable Development Goal has mentioned about affordable and clean energy. Energy is a means to achieve basic human needs but about 7 percent of the population in Nepal is still behind the access of electricity services distributed through the national grid (economic survey 2077/78). Majority of the population without access to electricity are from marginalized communities living in rural communities and are economically poor. Around 18 percent of population living below the poverty line is incapable to pay electricity charge. On 15 April 2020, the Electricity Regulatory Commission decided to provide electricity for the poor and low-income consumers consuming electricity less than 10 kwh per month from the distribution line of 5 amperes. However, the NEA has not made clear provision for the implementation of this decision of the Commission while formulating the Electricity Tariff Collection Rules 2020. Lack of affordability to pay for energy is a big hole to uplift the marginalized and poor communities towards the prosperity.

According to the article 18 in constitution of Nepal, the state may make special arrangements in accordance with the law for the development of marginalized, minority, oppressed class, backward class, disabled or helpless, backward area, and economically deprived citizens in accordance with the law. The lack of access to energy is a hinderance to achieve other fundamental human rights like water, health, education, communication and safe housing. The local government has the authority to formulate and implement local policies and laws for the management of electricity services. To enhance the energy accessibility of poor, vulnerable marginalized communities’ local government can make arrangements to give special discount or concession in energy tariff and connection.

Sustainable Development Goal 7 ensures access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all and identifies that energy is central to progress in all areas of development. The present scenario signifies there is a long way to meet the SDG on time as the access to sustainable renewable energy by the poor, vulnerable and marginalized communities is behind the point where it should be. Nepal has the highest potential of generation of renewable energy from hydro however majority of population (62.5%) still rely on using traditional energy like fuel wood, agricultural residue, woods and animal dung as cooking energy. Energy is a public good and is a cross-sectorial issue from which the consumers benefit in multiple opportunities to empower health, education and economy.

The electricity demand has been increasing every year. So far 93% of population has reached the electricity access however the regular electricity supply and its affordability is still a question. In one hand electricity supply system is yet to be reliable and in other hand poor people are not been able to pay for electricity though NEA has waved the energy charge up to 10 Kwh but this 10 Kwh is not sufficient to use the basic electricity appliances for which poor are unable to afford it. The increase in electricity demand in urban areas is associated with the advancement in technology, rapid urbanization and population growth but the far remote communities, poor and marginalized communities in Nepal is still fighting for regular lightening purpose.

The right to development is an absolute human right. For the fair development every person regardless of their caste, origin, religion or gender could participate and enjoy the development. Nepal’s several policies and strategies have aimed to promote the participation of poor, vulnerable and marginalized community in meeting the energy needs. In Nepal, most of the times poor, vulnerable and marginalized communities are just the beneficiaries for utilizing energy services. The involvement of such group in energy management is negligible. Community Rural Electrification Entities (CREE) and Micro hydropower Project (MHP) are supporting for electrification in rural areas. Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC) established by government is working to provide electricity in rural areas where Nepal electricity authority has not been connected. The engagement of people from poor, vulnerable and marginalized communities is limited in CREE and MHP. Such communities should be aware about the importance of their participation in energy management. Also, equity in participation for uplifting the deprived communities seems crucial.

To address the right of citizens to have access to basic electricity services local government should give high priority for leaving no one behind the energy access. Electricity is a backbone for economic empowerment. Advancement in education, health, employment, job opportunities is highly dependent on access to energy. Local government can adopt the modality of providing subsidy and concession to the marginalized, vulnerable and ultra-poor household for reaching the unreached population.

Awareness and demand from the community (poor, vulnerable and marginalized) is vital to put pressure to the government bodies and the service provider like NEA or CREE or MHP. Involvement of marginalized, poor and vulnerable communities in management of energy is essential. The energy management from people from other communities could not understand the real need and advocate for the deprived communities. In context of Nepal very few people from deprived communities are involved in energy management so the voices regarding the needs of deprived communities is less heard which needs quick modifications in article of association for participation of deprived communities.

Poor, marginalized and vulnerable can enjoy right to sustainable energy when they are able to have access on policies that address the needs. Similarly access on decision making through sensitization and awareness raising is imperative to achieve sustainable energy. Access on empowerment (training and entrepreneurship) can improve the economic condition and raise the living standard. With the access to sustainable renewable energy a newly born child will certainly meet easy access to other facilities like education, water and safe housing.

Author: Sushila Ghimire

Ghimire is affiliated with Women’s Network for Energy and Environment, Nepal ( WoNEE).

Sushila Ghimire |
Thursday September 23, 2021, 11:15:19 AM |

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *