Energy Resilience in Nepal: Response and Future Directions after the 2015 Earthquake and 2015-2016 Blockade
The resilience of energy systems is not well considered in existing literature. This study seeks to inform this issue by investigating the response to the shocks which the energy systems of Nepal have recently faced. In April and May of 2015, major earthquakes devastated parts of central Nepal, and from September of the same year until February 2016, a trade blockade greatly restricted the import of goods from India, including petroleum fuels. Drawing upon extensive fieldwork amongst a range of stakeholders in Kathmandu, Nepal, this thesis analyses the experiences of different actors in the sector during and after these two key events. This thesis builds the concept of energy resilience using existing literature. This draws on energy security theory, resilience theory, and cultural theory. Using the concept, this thesis specifically looks at how different actors withstood, adapted and changed energy systems and the energy services they supply while experiencing realised risks to their system vulnerabilities. This approach allows energy resilience to be analysed in the response of Nepal’s electricity sector to the 2015 earthquake and the response of Nepal’s petroleum sector to the 2015-2016 blockade. To demonstrate the importance of performing this analysis using the energy resilience concept, this thesis brings forward thinking from energy security, energy poverty and energy justice literature to use as analytical tools when assessing the sector responses. This thesis argues that the impact of the earthquake was most severe for rural users, with the government operated grid users experiencing less persistent damage and a faster recovery process compared to rural uses. This inequality in the electricity sector therefore worsened energy justice issues, while the loss of electricity access for an estimated 600,000 households likely worsened energy poverty issues (NPC, 2015b). In the petroleum sector, the blockade demonstrated the vulnerability to Nepal’s energy security associated with relying on India as the sole supplier of petroleum fuels. However, this thesis also argues that the blockade was managed in a way which minimised adverse impacts to energy poverty and energy justice. Using the results of the sector response analyses alongside further stakeholder interviews, policy documents and existing literature, this thesis then concludes that Nepal’s energy future will be formed along three distinct axes of possibilities. In doing so, it is argued that Nepal’s energy future could have a distributed electricity sector, which would provide the greatest energy poverty and energy justice benefits. However, this future would be vulnerable to shocks like that which were experienced in the 2015 earthquake. Nepal may also have a regionally integrated energy sector that would provide access to an important electricity market and ensure electricity and petroleum demands will be met, but in doing so a reliance on India would remain. Lastly, Nepal could also reduce its reliance on fossil fuels by generating enough renewable electricity to meet domestic demand and minimising petroleum consumption growth. In this future, Nepal’s electricity generation would be vulnerable to climate and seismic related risks, but would provide the greatest benefits for sustainability related principles of energy justice.
Advisor: Hill, Douglas
Degree Name: Master of Planning
Degree Discipline: Department of Geography
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Energy; Resilience; Nepal; Earthquake; Blockade; Energy Systems; Electricity; Fuel; Disaster Response; Disaster
Research Type: Thesis