A Charles Sturt University (CSU) researcher investigating power generation in remote villages in Nepal may provide lessons for small remote communities in Australia.
"My project aims to identify the factors that lead to sustainable micro-power systems in Nepal, particularly small hydro-electric schemes set up using government subsidies over the past 15 years," said Mr Bharat Poudel, a PhD student in Faculty of Business, Justice and Behavioural Studies at CSU in Bathurst.
"Some systems have proven very good, but many have failed over this time, and I believe we can learn from these stories.
"I want to learn what conditions – social, technical, financial and institutional – help make these power projects successful."
Trained originally as an engineer, Mr Poudel has worked for the Nepalese government in off-grid renewable energy and led the national off-grid electrification program.
"More than 3 000 micro-hydroelectric power projects have been installed and thousands of others are planned. About US$100 million has been invested in micro-hydro electrification, about half paid for by users.
"We need to identify the successful projects, find out how and why this happened, what makes them sustainable, and replicate these to benefit our people."
According to Mr Poudel, the Nepalese government has also encouraged communities to buy bulk electricity from wholesale producers and manage local supplies as part of a local business.
This scheme is also being analysed as part of his PhD research, which is supervised by CSU Professor Kevin Parton.
"Mr Poudel's research has important implications for electricity supply to remote communities in Nepal and Australia," said Professor Parton, who is also a senior researcher with the University's Institute for Land, Water and Society.
"Although they may be worlds apart in economic development, people living in remote areas of Nepal and Australia endure similar difficulties in expensive and unreliable power supply due to their isolation and long distances from suppliers.
"Throw in a violent storm, a major avalanche or a huge bushfire and you have the impetus for people in isolated towns and villages to desire their own power supplies that are independent of extensive networks of 'poles and wires' and that meet their needs."
Mr Poudel is keen to spread the word of his findings.
"Over 1 billion people in Africa and Asia still live in the dark at night. It is unlikely that the electricity grid will spread to these people in the near future," he said.
"Therefore, renewable off-grid power projects offer these communities real hope in establishing and managing local, sustainable power for local economic and social development."