Tag Archives: Energy Access Nepal

here’s how the open data could strengthen Energy for All initiatives in Nepal

-[the article  originally posted at openaidpartnership.org] bloglink here-

Sustainable energy can provide under-served communities with enough energy to power machines that provide jobs, water crops, and turn on lights so children can read and do homework long after the sun goes down. In Nepal, a country in which more than 30 % of all households don’t have electricity, finding and implementing sustainable energy solutions is critical. While we have hit many challenges including poor skills and infrastructure, a lack of proper and usable data on energy access that has been an unseen hindrance in lighting households. Finding a sustainable energy solution for Nepal is just one example on how improving access to data is crucial in creating effective policy solutions.

Across the world, there has been high spending on subsidies for renewables. Unfortunately, populations who live in extreme poverty, as well as historically disadvantaged groups living in remote villages still remain unserved and out of reach of energy solutions. In Nepal, cumbersome subsidy administrative procedures needed to implement renewable energy options, requirements for additional equity from households, and an overall lack of information on available subsidies, vendor information, and best available technologies have dissuaded many citizens from utilizing sustainable energy options. At the same time, without the numbers on actual household energy need in these communities, a supply and demand mismatch has emerged that leads to a waste of resources. Given this supply and demand issue, the government is now struggling to eliminate fake claims made by vendors who have installed systems in un- and underreported areas. At the same time, fake claims from end users who define themselves as someone living in extreme poverty or a member of disadvantaged groups in order to gain additional subsidies that are provisioned for socially disadvantaged groups lead to higher monitoring and subsidy transaction costs.

If the government made full disclosure of energy provision data – including where subsidies are going, what is planned for which regions, and the amounts of each subsidy or vendor contract – duplication of resources, false contracts, and fraudulent claims will diminish as people are allowed to closely monitor factual information on vendors, subsidies and technologies.

Despite this possibility, the Government of Nepal has been averse to publishing data online, and, even in cases that are made public, they are often provided in relatively unusable formats which have been limiting researchers, coders and developers to properly use them. As such, the real profile of energy consumption and investment across the country remains unknown.

But, there is some good news. Nepal is headed in that direction with some promising initiatives focused on open energy data. Last year, the World Bank Group’s Open Aid Partnership held a data literacy bootcamp, at which participants were oriented to make use of open data and visualize the data in more illustrative ways. Journalists and civil society representatives like myself learned how to find crucial energy data that is usually embedded in documents and reports that can be verbose and dense. With this new information we were able to geocode Nepal’s solar energy system alongside cook stoves, allowing us to visualize, and easily comprehend renewable energy investments. Visually representing this data allows us to see patterns and trends that can and should inform the policy dialogue of the government and international donors.

As Nepal is preparing to provide energy access to all by 2017, it is crucial for the public to have access to energy data in order to analyze the energy use patterns and trends, helping to strategize the technology interventions and minimize the resource waste. Data literacy workshops, hackathons, and other such open data initiatives by the Bank and others are helping to harness demand for this data. We just need to ensure supply.