Development of Sustainability Framework For Sustainability Assessment of Institutional Solar Photovoltaic Systems in Nepal

Development of Sustainability Framework For Sustainability Assessment of Institutional Solar Photovoltaic Systems in Nepal

by Dr. Ram Prasad Dhital, Nepal (PPRE 2001/02)

Dr. Ram Prasad Dhital defended his pending PhD in renewable energy engineering from Tribhuvan University, Institute of Engineering Pulchowk Campus Nepal on February 10, 2019. The government of Nepal has recently appointed him as one of the commissioners/members for the newly established Electricity Regulatory Commission of Nepal (NERC)


Abstract of PhD

Realizing the importance of renewable energy in rural areas, with the support of various development partners, Alternative Energy Promotion Center (AEPC), a focal agency for promoting renewal energy technologies under Government of Nepal, has been promoting Solar Photovoltaic (PV) systems for electrification as an appropriate means to enhance rural livelihoods and conserve environment in rural areas. As the aim of these systems are to increase access to energy services for livelihood enhancement, it has become very important to assess whether these systems installed and being installed across different parts of Nepal are sustainable or not. This research aims to develop a sustainability framework and carry out sustainability assessment of Solar PV projects installed in Nepal till the period of 2013.

In the context of Nepal, technical, economic, environmental and social are the four major criteria that are found to reliably measure sustainability. By assigning weightages computed using Analytical Hierarchy Process to each criterion and sub-criteria of sustainability metrics framework. It was seen that Technical was the most important criteria in sustainability assessment of Solar PV Project (33%). This is followed by Economic, Environmental and Social where they weigh 27%, 22% and 18% respectively.

An empirical sustainability framework is developed to assess the sustainability of the sampled PV Projects. It was seen that 74% of the projects are found to be weakly sustained whereas 10% of the projects are not sustained. Although most of the PV projects passed Technical Sustainability Metrics (SM1) criteria, only 14 (17.5%) of the sampled projects qualify Economic Sustainability Metrics (SM2) criteria. It was found that SM2 was one of the major criteria that make solar PV projects unsustainable. 95% of the projects qualify against Social Sustainability Metrics (SM4). But it performed poorly compared to Environmental Sustainability Metrics (SM3). An economic criterion is found to be one of the weakest factors that lead to project unsustainability. No revenue generation, lack of proper operation and management, inability of proper linkage with productive end use and lack of government periodic monitoring after commissioning are found to be some of the major sub-factors leading to the unsustainability of projects.

The result generated from sustainability assessment were verified by collecting the data from the survey of 9 sub-criteria of sustainability metrics and performing AHP for measuring the sustainability of renewable energy system (Solar, Biomass, Micro Hydropower and Grid Technology). By using AHP, Grid technology were ranked at top priority (32%), which is followed by Micro Hydropower (29%), Solar (23%) and Biomass (16%). The stakeholder analysis were carried out so as to identify the key stakeholders, energy consumption rate, benefits from the project and their level of satisfaction. So, the result from AHP model and Stakeholder analysis were similar to the sustainability assessment of solar PV project as well as the reasons for weakly sustainable and unsustainable project were found during validation.

The sustainability framework has developed and proposed sustainability framework can be used as a benchmark for sustainability assessment of other renewable energy project. Since this field study has conducted in 2013/2014, there has been a significant reduction in prices of Solar PV System. The total cost would have been less and even the less revenue would have made those systems either highly sustainable or sustainable. Further study is recommended to address the cost reduction aspects of the PV system.

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