Working at BPCL taught me valuable professional lessons

For Mohan Prasad Gautam, career development is all about reaching milestones and pursuing professional excellence. Gautam, who is the CEO of Upper Tamakoshi Hydropower Limited (UTHL), started as an Engineer at Nepal Engineering Consultants (P) Ltd, went on to undertake important roles and responsibilities in different organizations in the energy sector including Butwal Power Company Limited and NEA and worked in key hydropower projects and entities including Khimti I, Upper Tamakoshi, Dudhkoshi Storage Hydroelectric Project and led the Trishuli Jal Vidhyut Company. Since April 2023, he has been working as the CEO of UTHL. In a conversation with the HRM, Gautam recalled the start of his career, the lessons he learned, and how the experiences helped to take on responsibilities in the energy sector. Excerpts: 

Q: Tell us about your first job. How did you get into the job?
A: After graduating from the then USSR with an M.Sc. in Civil Engineering with honors from Moscow State Technical University in 1993, I entered consulting services. My initial job as an Engineer began at Nepal Engineering Consultants (P) Ltd, an engineering consulting firm led by my seniors. My role involved providing consulting services for the identification, feasibility, and detailed design of infrastructure projects, including water supply, irrigation, micro-hydropower, and roads. These projects were commissioned by various ministries and government departments in Nepal. In my early career, I held a managerial position responsible for the bidding process and served as a team leader to execute the assigned tasks.

Q: What were the challenges for you initially?
A: Primarily, the challenge for me was adapting to Nepali society and work culture here given my higher education outside the country. Having pursued my degree in the Russian language for six years, I initially found it challenging to prepare reports in English and Nepali. However, I swiftly overcame the hurdle and achieved success, leveraging the strong language foundation I gained during my studies at the Institute of Engineering, Pulchowk. Additionally, I had to adjust to the distinct engineering literature and codes of practice specific to the Nepali context.

Q: What major achievements were there for you professionally and personally during your stint at Butwal Power Company Limited (BPCL)? What lessons did you learn? 
A: I joined Butwal Power Company Limited (BPCL) in 1998 when the company was actively managing operational hydel projects including Jhimruk and Andhikhola. During that period, the construction of the Khimti I Hydroelectric Project (60 MW) was underway under the supervision of the developer company Himal Power Limited. My role was within BPC Hydroconsult, the company’s engineering department, where I collaborated with volunteering professionals from the United Nations who were supervising our team.

My responsibilities involved contributing to the design team for the Khimti I Hydroelectric Project, encompassing surveying, design, and the preparation of construction drawings. The office culture adhered to international standards in terms of administration, management, and work practices. Alongside Khimti I, our team was also actively involved in the feasibility study of potential projects.

Working at BPCL taught me valuable professional lessons such as fostering a spirit of teamwork, embracing proven engineering practices and ethics, developing presentation skills, enhancing report-writing proficiency, and cultivating a sense of gratitude and compassion.

Q: How did the experiences prepare you for future roles in the energy sector? 
A: As a civil engineer with a specific focus on Highway Engineering in my academic background, I had various sectors to consider for my career, such as roads, water supply, and irrigation. However, during my tenure at BPCL, my professional interests converged towards the energy sector. The experiences gained as a team member involved in the design and construction of a 60 MW project psychologically prepared me for a more expansive role in the energy sector. Fortunately, in 2003, I entered the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) through open competition, providing me with exposure to the vast landscape of the energy sector.

Q: After five years in BPCL, you joined the NEA and worked in the Upper Tamakoshi Hydroelectric Project in 2008. What was it like working on a large hydel project like Upper Tamakoshi?
A: I departed from BPCL after a tenure of over five years and joined the Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) in 2003. Drawing on my consulting background and the experience gained at BPC Hydroconsult, I was assigned to the Engineering Directorate. At that time, Upper Tamakoshi was initiating the feasibility study under the NORAD Grant. I was delegated to the team of Norconsult AS Norway involved in conducting the study, focusing on the infrastructure aspect, including a 70 km access road and several permanent bridges.

In 2008, I was transferred to Upper Tamakoshi, where I contributed as a team member in project optimization, detailed design, cost estimation, and the procurement process for contractor selection. Following over seven years of involvement in project execution, I earned a promotion to Manager, and NEA entrusted me with the responsibility of overseeing the Dudhkoshi Storage Hydroelectric Project as the Project Manager.

Reflecting on the experience of working at Upper Tamakoshi, it was gratifying to be part of a national pride project that provided me with comprehensive exposure. The work environment was noteworthy, offering the opportunity for frequent interactions with the President, Prime Minister, and other senior government officials. Notably, engaging with distinguished experts in the field was a significant highlight. While raising a fund of Rs 3.5 billion presented a challenge for the team, we ultimately overcame this hurdle.

Q: After working in different capacities in the Dudhkoshi Storage Hydroelectric Project and Trishuli Jal Vidhyut Company, you have been working as the CEO of Upper Tamakoshi for the last seven months. What are your plans to increase the profitability of the company and contribute to the country’s hydropower development? 
A: During my one-year involvement in the Dudhkoshi Storage Hydroelectric Project, I successfully executed the task of appointing an international consultant to prepare the Detailed Project Report and bidding documents.

Subsequently, NEA Management opted to take over Trishuli Jal Vidhyut Company, the developer of the Upper Trishuli 3B Hydroelectric Project. Here, my focus shifted to finalizing the project concept for the 37 MW venture, incorporating the cascade arrangement of the Upper Trishuli 3A Hydroelectric Project (60 MW). We successfully selected an EPC contractor for the entire project, covering civil, hydro-mechanical (H/M), electrical-mechanical (E/M), and transmission line works. Despite facing setbacks due to the Covid-19 pandemic and other factors, the project which is a government priority with shares issued to the public under the banner of People’s Hydropower, has reached a physical progress of about 70 percent during my tenure.

Having returned to Upper Tamakoshi in the capacity of CEO since March 2023, the company currently generates average revenue of Rs 10-12 billion from electricity sales to NEA. This serves as a vital component in balancing the country’s energy system. However, financial challenges persist, primarily due to time and cost overruns resulting in a significant increase in IDC (Interest During Construction). A 15-year loan repayment schedule has been established between the lenders and the company.

To restore the company to a profitable status, our current strategy involves negotiating the interest rate, reviewing the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), and extending the power generation license.

Additionally, the company has commenced the development of the Rolwaling Khola Hydroelectric Project, a 21 MW second-stage development of the Upper Tamakoshi Hydroelectric Project (UTKHEP). This project not only contributes 21 MW and 105 GWh of annual energy from its plant but also adds 212 GWh of annual energy to the UTKHEP system, increasing peaking hours by two.

Addressing challenges in team building and ensuring the adoption of my vision by middle-level management are priorities that I am actively working on. With a four-year performance contract with NEA, I have presented a comprehensive business plan and am committed to meticulously achieving the milestones outlined in the plan.

Q: What message do you have for engineers and young graduates who aspire to develop their careers in the energy sector?
A: I advise them to delve into the global energy sector and acquaint themselves with the country’s energy policy. Given our nation’s significant potential in hydropower development, I encourage young engineers and graduates to adopt a constructive approach. They should not only seek employment but also engage in research for innovative ideas.

Scroll to Top