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Publication - Dr Sam Williamson

    A Study of Technical, Economic and Social Factors Affecting Micro-Hydropower Plants in Nepal


    Butchers, J, Williamson, S, Tran, A, Booker, J, Gautam, B & Karki, PB, 2019, ‘A Study of Technical, Economic and Social Factors Affecting Micro-Hydropower Plants in Nepal’. in: 2018 IEEE Global Humanitarian Technology Conference (GHTC 2018): Proceedings of a meeting held 18-21 October 2018, San Jose, California, USA. Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), pp. 446-453


    Due to slow expansion of the national grid, many rural areas of Nepal depend on micro-hydropower plants to provide electricity to homes and businesses. Micro-hydro turbines are designed, manufactured and installed by small and medium sized enterprises based in Nepal. After a plant is commissioned, its technical and economic operation is managed by selected members of the local community. When problems affect the plant, people are forced to rely on traditional or fossil fuel-based technologies to provide light to their homes, whilst many businesses cannot run without a supply of electricity. A study of 24 sites (18 Crossflow and 6 Pelton turbines) looked to identify the combination of technical, social and economic factors that affect the performance and reliability of plants. Interviews were carried out with plant operators, plant managers, and consumers to understand how the plant is run and managed, and the position it occupies in the local community. A quantitative assessment of maintenance and observation of 10 sub-systems was conducted at each site. The information collected demonstrated that the social and economic impact at home and in the community mean that micro-hydropower plants are highly valued. However, it was found that 40% of managers reported that monthly payments were not always sufficient to pay for repairs. By combining information on the domestic and commercial end uses, financially threatened sites have been identified. At the sites with trained operators, a higher quality of maintenance was found. Across all of the sites, problems at all sub-systems which could weaken performance and increase running costs have been identified.

    Full details in the University publications repository