Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 is to ‘Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all’. However, inadequate energy supply continues to hinder social and economic development in Nepal. Despite a wealth of renewable energy potential – particularly with hydropower but also solar and biomass – sustainability and access remain major challenges. A research project led by the University of Leeds, with partners in Nepal and the UK, identified indigenous oil seed plants as an alternative, more environmentally friendly energy source than fossil fuels. The project has led to the creation of an international Clean Energy Research Alliance (CERA) with partners in Uganda, Congo-Brazzaville, Tanzania, Indonesia and India.
People need energy for basic needs such as cooking and heating, as well as for improving agricultural productivity and allowing for mechanisation, irrigation and postharvesting processing, among other critical livelihood activities. In Nepal, firewood is the predominant household energy source, accounting for more than 70 per cent of consumption nationally (and is almost the sole source of fuel in some districts). However, its inefficient use poses a threat to the country’s forests as well as to the health of approximately 22 million Nepalese who are regularly exposed to household air pollution. The Clean Cooking Alliance estimates that such pollution contributes to the death of nearly 20,000 people in Nepal each year, nearly a quarter of them children.