Thukten Zangpo 

Bhutan at present is not energy secure, said Lyonpo Loknath Sharma. Adding 200MW of wind energy in the next 2 to 3 years, he said, could help the country achieve energy security.

Lyonpo was responding to Bartsham-Shongphu MP Passang Dorji’s question at the National Assembly yesterday, who asked about the government’s plans and policies to achieve energy security.

Passang Dorji said that hydropower is the backbone of energy in the country but studies have found that the sector could face the risk of climate change in the future.

He added that the country exports about Nu 11.5 billion (B) worth of electricity yearly to India, but it is offset by the import during winter season, while the country also imports petrol and diesel from India worth Nu 9B annually.

Passang Dorji also said that although the country has the potential to generate 22,000 megawatts (MW) of solar energy and 760MW of wind energy, only 9MW has been realised till now.

The country has a generation capacity of 2,326MW of electricity from hydropower in summer, which decreases to 411MW in winter, Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said.

He said that the country’s demand was 500MW last winter, and Bhutan imported 200MW of electricity to meet increasing demand from the manufacturing and production sectors, which coincided with the shutdown of Tala hydropower project.

“By 2030, we would require 1,500MW of energy,” he said, adding that the government had discussed with the Druk Holding and Investments to install 200MW of solar energy in the next two to three years which would be followed by other alternative sources.

Lyonpo said that the country has achieved 99 percent of energy security technically. However, the situation is changing in practical terms.

He said the electricity generation target was 10,000MW by 2020 but there are many inconveniences to sort out.

Lyonpo said that globally there is a growth of other energy sources like solar, wind, thermal, hydrogen, and nuclear. To meet energy security, he added that the government has come up with the Sustainable Hydropower Policy 2021 and is also coming up with an alternative energy policy.

Lyonpo said that the government is in discussion with experts to come up with green hydrogen-powered energy. “Investment in green hydrogen is huge.”

He said that the solar panels are being installed in rural villages and there is a shift in the use of energy-efficient electrical appliances and a move towards embracing electric vehicles in the country.

Bhutan, he said, also has to look for alternatives to shift from run-off-river hydro projects to reservoir projects.