Hydropower: The government will strive to generate a minimum 5,000 MW of electricity by 2020, half the initial target, according to the first working draft of the Economic Development Policy (EDP), which is still under consultation.

Including the 126MW Dagachhu project, the current installed generation capacity is 1,606MW. The three-mega projects of Punatshangchhu I, II and Mangdechhu accounts for 2,940 MW of power. This would take the country’s installed generation capacity to 4,546 MW before 2020.

Should the 600MW Kholongchhu commission as scheduled, the country would achieve the new target.

However, the draft policy states that implementation of an additional 2,120 MW capacity comprising of four JV projects (770 MW Chamkharchu, 600MW Kholongchhu, 180MW Bunakha reservoir and 570 MW Wangchhu) under bilateral cooperation with GoI shall be pursued proactively.

Once these projects come on line, the country would be harnessing 6,666 MW of electricity.

However, going by the draft EDP, the ambitions in the power sector is beyond power generation. Efforts will also be made to build capacity to become a knowledge centre for hydropower development and related services both in the region and globally.

The draft EDP, recommends the various policy frameworks for the development of hydropower, and the rudimentary agenda being providing electricity to all household.

The draft suggests the need to have an electricity allocation policy by 2017 in order to provide firm power to essential institutions and domestic consumers.

The development of hydropower, the draft EDP states, would be accelerated by promoting construction of other projects and inter-linking of transmission grids to integrate with regional grids for promotion of electricity trade.

But all the developments in hydropower sector shall be in line with the Bhutan Sustainable Hydro Power Policy 2008 and following amendments.

To ensure national energy security through increased firm power capacity, the development of storage hydroelectric projects shall be accorded priority, meaning the reservoirs schemes.

It also articulates about establishment of power system coordination committee for efficient coordination, operation and supply within the country and trading of electricity in the region.

The clause in the earlier policy, which states that subsidies from high voltage industries should be gradually removed, has been removed.

To promote micro, small and medium industries, subsidies for medium voltage (MV) industrial consumers will be continued until 2020. The Domestic Electricity Tariff Policy (DETP) shall be adopted by 2016 to make electricity tariff affordable while ensuring sustainability of the electric utility companies.

Besides using royalty revenue for subsidizing the domestic tariff, as is the case now, part of the royalty is to be ploughed back to conserve the catchment area, and support alternative renewable energy.

“The hydropower projects shall also allocate an amount not exceeding one percent of the total project development cost towards social and environmental management safeguards,” states the draft.

Should the current draft EDP materialise, preferences would be given to local suppliers and contractors, which employ local skills and expertise during construction and operation of hydropower projects.

Meanwhile, the EDP revision core team comprises of 16 members from 15 organizations and has met 16 times under the Chairmanship of the Joint Secretary.

It was also highlighted that there have been no inputs from the Ministries of education, health and works and human settlement and a few other agencies despite repetitive follow-ups.

This is the first working draft of the Policy and is subject to several revisions.

Tshering Dorji