Wind Energy Empowers the Poor in Nepal

Feature | 16 December 2011

Ekmaya, from Dhaubadi, a remote village of Nepal, is proud of a table cover she recently knitted at night. Darkness used to engulf her village as night fell; now with wind powered lights, the nights are like days. Her excitement is shared by the families of Dhaubadi. For Ekmaya and many others in the village there is now an alternative to homemade kerosene lamps for light in the house.

She is benefitting from ADB's pilot wind power project that is now serving 46 households in her village. In partnership with the local community and government, ADB is piloting the project in Nawalparasi district in Nepal. This project is an integral part of the "Energy for All" initiative of the ADB to respond to the critical energy needs of these poor marginalized groups.

Community ownership and active participation of the people are the key for the long-term sustainability of these small distributed renewable energy projects. A Rural Renewable Energy Service Company (RURESCO) is established to ensure project viability, knowledge sharing and proactive private sector participation. This project expects to reduce the use of battery, kerosene and firewood by mobilizing the abundantly available wind, solar and biogas energy.

Moving towards clean energy

The successful installation of the two wind turbines of 5 KW each has brought a ray of hope and happiness for the marginalized people of the village who live in extreme impoverished conditions. The project targets at alleviating energy poverty, protecting local environment and achieving inclusive and sustainable growth in poor rural areas suffering from acute energy shortage.

It was difficult in the beginning for the people of Dhaubadi to believe that energy could be generated from wind. It is indeed difficult to think beyond the harsh winter winds and the strong storms which at times threatened lives.

Now, to their amazement, wind is generating electricity. The marginalized Magar community people of this village had only seen such bright and powerful lights in other places. Now they can see, feel and touch the light installed in their own houses.

Beneficiaries

On the first day they had electricity in the house, Ekmaya Thapa Magar ran around her garden with joy. She says, "I used to rush home before dusk from the field to cook meals and to do the household chores in day light. But now I don't have to hurry to finish work because with electricity I can manage more work."

Like Ekmaya, Khim Bahadur Sinjali, resident of the village, is excited with the installation of the wind turbines in his village. Khim Bahadur runs a small tea shop in the village. With the supply of reliable renewable energy, he plans to expand his tea shop business. He has already made plans to buy a refrigerator to store food supply and a grinder to make pickles and sauce.

Khem Prasad, a teacher at Shree Shikshya Bodhini Secondary School, is confident that the education of the children will improve. He says, "The children of the village used to go off to bed early in the evening after dinner but now with electricity the children can study and do their homework at night." He believes that electricity will add the much needed attraction to education and could result in high enrollment.

Another beneficiary, Padam Bahadur Rana Magar was enthusiastic from the beginning and he actively participated in the project. He is amazed at the brightness of this electric light from the hybrid Wind-Solar Energy system supplied through a village mini-grid. With eyes twinkling and a bright smile he says, "I have no words to express my joy."

Cooperative approach

For the long term sustainability of the project 'Hoorhoore Danda Cooperative' has formed a steering committee of which Padam Bahadur is the Treasurer. The people have developed their own mechanism for the management and maintenance of the energy system.

The cooperative generates revenue from the payment by the residents for the use of energy. The revenue will be utilized for the management and maintenance of the project and for the development of infrastructure and as loan facility for the benefit of the people. They are proud to be the owners of the project which they see it as their great asset.

The project has adopted an integrated approach by including the locally available other renewable energy such as the solar energy and biogas besides the wind energy. Solar cookers and dryers and biogas systems have been introduced to substantially reduce the need for burning firewood and agricultural byproducts.

Future plans

The project will now build greenhouse systems to absorb solar energy and manage water uses for producing high-valued cash crops and vegetables and establish a food and agricultural processing unit to generate revenue.

The cooperative is planning to set up a center of information, telecommunication and entrainment to connect with the outside world and most importantly a much needed health clinic will be constructed made possible due to the access, availability and affordability of electricity.

Sultan H. Rahman, ADB Director General for South Asia Regional Department, said, "This is just the beginning. These systems are highly adaptable for different countries. Providing energy for all by using clean energy is a win-win solution for development. Definitely, the lessons learned here in Nepal on the deployment of small wind power in rural areas will be very useful scaling up within Nepal and replicating to other ADB developing member countries."

About the project

For this project, ADB is working with the local community, Alternative Energy Promotion Center (AEPC) under the Ministry of Environment and Practical Action Nepal.