The hydropower projects’ slow pace of progress needs to be expedited, says MoEA minister 

Hydropower: Bhutan would harness only about 5,000MW of electricity by 2021, half the target the country had earlier pursued to achieve by 2020.

The total installed capacity of hydropower today is about 1,600MW. The completion of Punatshangchu I & II and Mandgdechu hydropower projects would add about another 3000MW by 2021.

“The progress rate of hydropower projects is very poor and has been moving at a snail’s pace,” said economic affairs minister, Norbu Wangchuk, who is on a tour of Trashigang, said.

The progress rate of 15 percent today, lyonpo said, has come after more than four decades of discussion on hydropower projects.

“Therefore, we need to give more importance on hydropower and expedite works if we are to harness our full potential,” lyonpo said. “It is a long way ahead and we owe it to our future generations to take advantage of the resources we have.”

In an earlier email interview with Kuensel, President Paranb Mukherjee had said that the 10 Indian-assisted projects in Bhutan, which include the three existing, three ongoing and four joint venture model hydroelectric projects would provide 6,476MW by around 2022.

By then, it was confirmed that the 10,000MW target by 2020 was unachievable and that the target needed to be reviewed.

However, lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk said there has been significant progress after the 12th empowered joint meeting (EJP) when four joint venture (JV) projects comprising 600MW Kholongchu, 570MW Wangchu, 770 MW Chamkharchu and the 180MW Bunakha HPs were approved by the Government of India (GoI).

“During the recent 14th EJG meeting, it was decided that the four JV projects would be implemented and preconstruction works for Kholongchu has already commenced,” lyonpo said.

Albeit the ongoing debate, works on the Chamkharchu project are already at an advanced stage and by November, the project would be registered as a company under the Company Act of the Kingdom of Bhutan 2000.

While the Druk Green Power Corporation (DGPC) would represent Bhutan, the Indian counterpart is the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) for Chamkharchu project.

Lyonpo said all matters between DGPC and NHPC pertaining to the project has been resolved and is almost ready for incorporation. At present, articles of incorporation are being drafted.

In the case of Bunakha and Wangchu JVs, lyonpo said there are certain issues that need to be resolved in terms of financial closure and transmission line among others. The two approved JVs also have cascading matters to be taken care of.

“Bunakha will directly benefit Chukha plant and Tala and Wangchu hydropower projects,” Lyonpo said. “Therefore, for the benefit they would derive, the projects need to invest on Bunakha and negotiations are ongoing.”

Since the 10,000MW is not feasible, the government would be opting for a project wise approach and take up possible hydropower projects, the minister said.

Mutual discussions between Bhutan and GoI for other huge hydropower projects under the 10,000MW target like Kurigongri, Sunkosh and Amochu are happening as well but the detailed project reports (DPR) are yet to be finalised. GoI had earlier indicated that lack of fund might impede the progress of these JV projects.

However, lyonpo affirmed that lack of funding shouldn’t hinder the development of the three massive JV projects.

“From our side, we need to look into the impact of hydropower to our economy. So, studies have to be conducted and if the projects are lucrative and feasible, we will sort a way forward,” lyonpo said.

The government would then figure out how these projects should be scheduled and what modalities to be followed. Should there be a need, the minister said there are chances that the government might down scale the three JV projects.

Tshering Wangdi, Trashigang