Shanti Bhandari, a housewife from Pepsi Cola, was checking on features of a metallic cooking stove put on display by Foundation for Sustainable Technologies (FoST) at the Renewable Energy Exhibition in Bhrikutimandap.
Bhandari, 40, was among hundreds of visitors at the expo on Sunday, desperately looking for a way around the ongoing energy crisis—particularly for cooking purpose—to acute shortage of cooking coupled with ever-increasing power cuts.
“For the past month, my family has had no option but to bank on Nepal Electricity Authority’s intermittent power to cook meals at odd hours. We don’t know when we will have cooking gas,” she said, referring to long list of customers waiting for LPG. “And low voltage power makes cooking on electric induction stoves impossible.”
The three-day expo was a big draw—over 50,000 people visited the event. It showcased alternative and renewable technologies that catered the daily needs of a household such as cooking stoves, solar lamps and small solar system that would power lamps and charge mobiles. “We’ve sold 10-15 metal cooking stoves each day, along with briquettes, during exhibition,” said Kriti Shrestha of FoST.
The organisation, working on alternative energy technologies for cooking purpose, has been overwhelmed by growing demands for cooking stoves and briquettes.
“Earlier, we could hardly sell five stoves. But we have been selling 100 stoves on average daily since the blockade was imposed in September,” she said.
“The energy crisis has worsened this winter, with the Indian blockade only adding misery to daily life,” said Mukesh Ghimire, programme manager of the Solar Energy Sub-component at Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC)—the organiser.
Of the total 137 stalls at the exhibition, more than 90 represented solar companies. On display were solar technologies ranging from solar lamps to solar drier to a commercial-scale solar energy system that generates power in excess of 50 kilowatts.
On the opening day itself, solar energy companies and entrepreneurs reached deals on 12 different solar energy projects totalling 9.6 megawatt of energy, said Ghimire.
“In the past, people were only attracted to smaller solar system. But more people are going for larger units and the use of alternative energy for the commercial purpose is on the rise now,” he said, adding that the current energy crisis had the awareness on renewable and alternative energy technologies to a greater extent. “People are exploring alternative energy sources, mainly solar, to become independent of energy,” Ghimire noted.
AEPC, a government agency tasked to promote and develop alternative and renewable energy technologies, is now providing subsidy and soft loan to those interested in installing solar technology, both for household and commercial purposes.
Under the scheme, a solar energy system with a capacity of 500 watt or higher can be installed with subsidy worth Rs15,000. Customers can take out soft loans from three banks identified by AEPC—NMB Bank, Civil Bank and Nepal Investment Bank. Besides, the AEPC is providing 50 percent interest subsidy on bank loans. The banks’ interest rates range from 8 to 9 percent. NMB has introduced a loan scheme for both homes and offices. The bank provides loans up to 90 percent of the installation cost at 2.25 percent interest, which is payable over five years.