Yangyel Lhaden

Revision of the Alternative Renewable Energy Policy (AREP) 2013 is on hold following the Cabinet’s notification, in May, to  temporarily suspend revision of new policy proposals.

However, once reviewed and revised, the new AREP will become the overarching national energy policy, consolidating several existing energy policies.

The review of AREP 2013 was initiated in fiscal year 2022-2023 following the directive from the government. 

A Department of Energy (DoE) official said there were several related policies in place with some policies adopted recently. “While the aim was to amplify national impact through multiple policies, it has led to policy inflation causing confusion and implementation issues. Thus, an all-encompassing national energy policy is now crucial.”

Some of the policies in place related to energy including AREP are Sustainable Hydropower Development Policy, Domestic Electricity Tariff Policy, and Energy Efficiency Policy.

“The AREP 2013 review was also to provide the department with the platform to identify gaps, establish and accommodate new priorities, institute suitable promotion and deployment mechanisms, and adopt cutting-edge ARE technologies considering global trends,” the DoE official said. “The revision will also align with the national priorities guided by the principles of Gross National Happiness.” 

The new policy also aims to address energy security through diversified supply, optimise energy use across the value chain, and assess its economic impact beyond the energy sector by considering its linkages to other sectors, the official added.

AREP 2013

The AREP 2013 policy was formulated to promote renewable energy technologies, improve use of modern energy in the rural areas, and contribute to energy security broadening the energy mix–individual contribution of energy from various sources.

The objective was on  development of the energy supply with a  target of 20 megawatt (MW) of alternate or renewable energy by 2020. Since the inception of AREP 2013, a 600-kilowatt ( kW) wind farm and 180 kW solar farm in Rubesa, Wangdue was constructed and more than 8,000 households were supplied biogas plants along with distribution of about 13,000 improved cookstoves to beneficiaries in collaboration with the Department of Livestock and UNDP.

Additionally, a 5-kW peak solar panel has been installed at Mendrelthang in Lunana. A 17.3 mW peak solar power plant is being installed in Sephu, Wangdue.

The department also developed the renewable energy master plan and a resource assessment Report, which highlights the potential of renewable energy sources particularly solar, wind, and small hydro power generation in the country.

Meanwhile, a recent study authored by Avishek Malla and Pugazenthi Dhananjayan and published by ICIMOD recommends focusing on energy transition, livelihood improvement, green businesses, and job creation, moving beyond just electricity access in the AREP revised policy.

The authors revised the current AREP 2013 and recommended their findings in a study titled “Working Paper: ARE in Bhutan – Key Findings and Policy Recommendations.”

The study highlighted that the current framework prioritises electricity access but overlooks energy transition and productive energy use. It also noted low local private-sector capacity and the absence of a gender equality and social inclusion component in the current ARE policy. 

While the policy emphasises small hydro, it lacks a set target for this technology. Additionally, the study underscored the importance of maintaining quality control for renewable technologies, among other points.

“The review team will definitely take the recommendations submitted by ICIMOD and incorporate wherever it makes sense and has added value to the policy,” a DoE official said.