If Nepal Standard Time is pushed forward one hour and 15 min, we could slightly reduce our electricity shortfall this winter and adjust an unnecessary and irksome 15 minute time difference with India in one fell swoop.
Daylight saving time (DST) has been discussed before in the Nepal Electricity Authority and the Ministry of Environment, but plans have since gathered dust.
If enacted, DST would delay sunset and sunrise by 1 hour and 15 minutes, reducing light use during evening peak hours. Although more lights will switch on in the morning as the time change means many more will wake up before sunrise, there will be a net energy savings.
"Daylight saving will undoubtedly help reduce the electricity shortfall, since it allows people to work by daylight instead of tubelight," says former Minister of Water Resources Dipak Gyawali.
The numbers bear this out. Water management expert Ratna Sansar Shrestha calculates that if our electricity shortfall is 400MW this winter and we go up to 16 hours of loadshedding, then DST can reduce the shortfall by roughly 16MW, a 4 per cent decrease, and loadshedding by roughly 40 minutes a day.
DST energy savings could be more significant if industrial buildings, which consume a lot of electricity, were designed to require less ventilation and lighting.
Daylight saving was recently introduced in Bangladesh and Pakistan in a bid to reduce mounting electricity shortfalls, but has had a rocky start, especially in Pakistan, where it has confused thousands who have flat out refused to adjust their clocks.
That's a problem DST could face in Nepal. It will be difficult to communicate time changes to clock-users, particularly in the countryside, disrupting city-to-village commerce. It doesn't help that the very idea of DST is confusing. When asked for his feelings about the scheme, a bemused Milan Rai, who runs a cafe in Lalitpur, shot back, "What? I don't understand. You want to change the sunrise?"
Astrologers will feel the confusion most keenly, since the changes will throw their charts out of whack. Said one astrologer, "It will definitely change the charts so I might accidentally recommend inauspicious times."
It will also annoy early risers, like students and construction workers, who will have to wake up even earlier in the mornings, when it is considerably colder and darker. Research suggests that there are more sleepy drivers, so more road accidents, in the weeks immediately following daylight saving time changes.
However, the proposal will also round off to a half hour Nepal's inane 15-minute time difference with India, which it has had since 1971, and which has been a thorn in the sides of traders between the two countries. "The time difference must go, whether or not it's bundled together with a daylight saving scheme, because it will make trading a little easier," says Gyawali.
Policymakers like former Environment Minister Ganesh Shah have tried to erase the difference but have seen their efforts stymied by bad politics and changes of government.
To be sure, it's unlikely that a government that's fighting tooth and nail for survival cares about energy savings either, but we can rest assured there's daylight at the end of the tunnel.
Living daylights - FROM ISSUE #472 (16 OCT 2009 - 22 OCT 2009)