World Environment Day: WFP Nepal Goes Solar

WFP's office in Kathmandu is leading the way towards carbon neutrality with an ambitious solar project that will cut down its greenhouse emissions by over a third. Copyright: WFP/Meghbar Chemjong

Frequent power outages and melting glaciers are a constant reminder in Nepal of the shortcomings of fossil fuels. In an effort to reduce its carbon footprint and become more energy-efficient, WFP's office there is looking to solar power as a sustainable alternative.

by Deepesh Shrestha, Public Information Officer and Tyler McMahon, Solar Project Coordinator

KATHMANDU -- For much of the world, climate change is still an abstract concept. But in Nepal it is a visible and ominous reality — just ask WFP Nepal Country Director Richard Ragan. A mountaineer who first came to Nepal in the early 1990s to climb the Himalayas, Ragan saw first-hand how much had changed when he came back with WFP in 2006.

On World Environment Day 2007, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on all agencies and programmes to “go green” and become climate neutral. See how far we’ve come at the new Greening the Blue website.

“Twenty years ago, when I first came here climbing, there was no lake at the bottom of Mt. Imja Tse,” he says. But there is now. Runoff from a melting glacier has created a body of water over one kilometre wide in less than 16 years.

One of many examples of climate change in Nepal, the country also struggles with major energy shortages that leave much of the country without electricity for long stretches of time.

“Nepal is a country with abundant energy potential yet most people still live without power for 50% of the day.  This just didn't make sense to me so I felt we needed to demonstrate that there were alternatives,” said Ragan.

In an effort to shrink its carbon footprint and become less reliant on the national energy grid, the Kathmandu office launched an ambitious project to cut greenhouse emissions by 30% using solar energy. This will eliminate at least 25 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year and will ultimately pay for itself through reduced electricity costs.

The project got off the ground in late May with the installation of a 10 kilowatt peak grid-interactive power system and stand-alone solar-powered security lights. This alone will power the office’s server room, satellite and telephone communication systems, and 11 computers, saving around 30,000 watt-hours per day.

The second phase, to be completed by mid-August, will raise the peak to 22 kilowatts, providing enough solar energy to power all of the lights, computers and printers for more than 80 staff. At this point, WFP Nepal will be able to do without its generator all together in addition to the 11,000 litres of fuel it consumes ever year.

The system is being installed by Solar Solutions Nepal, whose managing Director Raj Thapa said it was the “biggest urban grid-interactive project in the country”.

Reducing our footprint

In order to meet the UN-wide goal of climate neutrality, WFP has launched a wide range of initiatives intended to reduce our carbon footprint and protect the environment in the countries where we work. Here are a few examples: