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Nepal's rural population will receive subsidies for using clean energy as part of a move to reduce their dependence on firewood, the government revealed in its rural energy policy. 

The policy launched last month (27 November) includes a range of proposals to boost the use of solar and wind energy, micro hydropower and biogas to generate electricity.

The government will encourage the private sector to participate, for example, in generating and distributing electricity generated by micro hydropower plants.

It also plans to carry out research into biogas, expand its research into solar energy, and prepare a master plan for using wind energy.

It will set up a rural energy fund to implement the plans, which include routing electricity cables to rural areas.

Lokhary Pandey, under-secretary at the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology, told SciDev.Net that details of how clean energy will be subsidised and to what extent are still being discussed. 

Firewood is the most widely used fuel among Nepal's rural population, particularly for cooking. Few can afford to use other forms of energy, as 40 per cent live below the poverty line.

But the use of firewood severely reduces indoor air quality and harms people's health, increases atmospheric pollution and causes deforestation.

Previous energy policies in Nepal have been inconsistent, poorly coordinated and lacked effective monitoring. Relevant research and information are poor, affecting the quality of policy measures.

Prem Bahadur Bashnet, general manager of the Renewable Energy Test Station in Nepal added that energy policies suffered from a lack of technical staff, poor information in the rural areas and the high costs of renewable energy.

"Around 70 per cent of micro hydro projects are not working today due to lack of technicians, maintenance training and awareness," he told SciDev.Net, welcoming the policy as an "historical" measure to address these concerns.

Nepal has one of the world's lowest energy consumption per person. Its first planned effort to develop energy began in 1980, when it introduced its first energy development policy.