Nepali Times
Business as unusual


LETTING OFF STEAM: Preventing such leakages will not only help companies save thousands, but also go a long way in conserving energy for the future.
Hotel Radisson in Lazimpat has hosted heads of state, foreign diplomats and rock stars. But even an international hotel chain like Radisson is not immune to Nepal's chronic energy crisis. Like every grid-connected building in the country, it does not take long until here, too, the lights go out and the diesel guzzling generators take over.

In an effort to slash its diesel bills, which makes up a large chunk of the operating costs, and maximise its energy consumption, chief engineer at Radisson, Kiran Joshi, is introducing innovative methods. "We want to become an energy-efficient business, because for us saving energy means saving money," says Joshi.

Radisson is a good example of what the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FNCCI) and the German aid agency, GIZ hope to achieve through their new energy efficiency project.

After the success of a cleaner production program by the Nepali and Danish governments between 1999 and 2005, FNCCI along with GIZ launched the energy efficiency centre (EEC) in 2011 to encourage the eight most energy-intense industries in Nepal, such as hotels, to reduce their energy consumption and save money.

In corporation with district chambers, the project will carry out awareness programs in industrial towns across Nepal. EEC will also train 45 energy auditors to conduct 40 audits in private companies, under the supervision of long-term experts and regional experts from each of the eight industry.

Company owners and managers will be adviced to replace incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient LED bulbs, regulate the temperature of boilers and insulate pipes to reduce heat loss and raise water temperatures. Through these initiatives, EEC aims to cut energy consumption by 10 per cent in at least five of the 40 audited companies until the program ends in 2014.

"Convincing companies is not always easy," says Susanne Bodach, energy and environment expert with the EEC, "Many might ask how they can save energy when they don't have enough electricity in the first place."

Some companies are deterred by the initial cost of introducing energy-efficient systems. Even banks are hesitant to provide loans, because it's more profitable and risk-free for them to finance real-estate projects rather than such initiatives.

However, simple measures like changing light bulbs or insulating pipes don't need much investment and companies can cut down production costs in a short time and lower their dependence on expensive imported fuel.

Besides persuading companies or banks to invest in energy-efficiency projects, changing the industry culture is another challenge. Bodach says some companies are not even aware of how much energy they use because they don't have records. Establishing a culture of energy management is therefore a crucial part of EEC's plan.

Asking workers to adapt to newer methods is also difficult. "You have workers and plant operators who have been doing their job for 20 years and then a young energy auditor comes in and tells them to do things differently. This can create problems, " explains Bodach.

EEC feels the government isn't particularly keen on energy-efficiency programs, because most work happens behind the scenes, there is no visible physical structure like a PV plant and the results are less tangible. "Policy makers usually don't like such projects, because there are no ribbon cutting or inauguration ceremonies," says Bodach.

While countries like India and China are already including energy efficiency in their energy strategy, the energy policy in Nepal is still in its infancy.

Despite the challenges, Bodach is optimistic that the program will be successful and the targeted energy consumption cut of 10 per cent will be met. "We hope we can exceed our target," she adds.

Bodach is also hopeful that companies will make efforts to continue the initiative in the long-run even after the project ends in three years. "The 40 energy audits will hopefully produce 40 good entrepreneurs who are willing to implement energy-efficient systems and be role models for other entrepreneurs," she says.

Gyanendra Upadhyay, long-term expert and energy auditor with EEC, who was involved in the joint Nepali-Danish program, says the response so far from partner organisations in the districts has been positive as they feel the EEC program is more-suited to their needs.

See also:
Moving beyond buzzwords, SIDDHANT RAJ PANDEY
Nepal shows that climate micro-financing can be endemic and deep-rooted

No light at the end of the tunnel, DEWAN RAI and RUBEENA MAHATO
The bad news is that the power crisis will get worse before it gets better

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)