Bhutan’s electricity export grows but fossil fuel import rises

Choki Wangmo 

Last year, 68.9 percent of electricity Bhutan produced was exported, an increased export share of 35 percent. In the same year, petrol and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) import shot up by eight and three percent, respectively. 

Bhutan imported 10,341 metric tonnes of LPG in 2019, rise by 339 metric tonnes compared with the import figure of the previous year. 

Although electricity export increased compared to 2018, it was not a rising trend compared with the figures of the past five years. The highest export rise of 72.9 percent, in 2017. The rise in electricity production last year was attributed to undisturbed power generation. The country’s power generation was as high as 2,400MW due to cyclone Amphan in May. 

The Druk Green Power Corporation recorded eight percent decrease in domestic power consumption from 2019 to date. The consumption decreased from 1,383 mega unit (MU) in 2019 to 1,272 MU in 2020, mainly on account of a slight dip in consumption from April to July.

The decrease in consumption is attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic which affected many industries.

Electricity import during lean season also dropped by more than 28 percent compared to 2018. 

Hydropower is the main source of energy in Bhutan, the transport sector continues to depend on imported fossil fuels.  

The supply of petrol has increased from 46,932 kilo litre (KL) in 2018 to 50,882KL in 2019, the highest in nine years. 

Officiating Director General of the trade department, Rinchen Lhazom, said that the import of LPG and petrol increased after government started to buffer stock for emergencies. 

About 40,000 LGP cylinders were stocked but the demand has increased due to Covid-19. 

A new fuel depot was constructed at Thingchuphaka near Chudzom in 2019. 

For domestic consumption, fossil fuels such as diesel, petrol, and LPG are imported from India. Bhutan imports 3,460 barrels of fossil fuel per day. 

The diesel import, however, decreased from 156,818KL in 2018 to 149,905KL in 2019. 

The service sector remains the highest consumer at 35.17 percent, followed by industrial sector at 20.61 percent and household at 19.42 percent. The agriculture sector accounts to 12.99 percent. 

The re-export of fuel also decreased in 2019. From the total import of petrol and diesel, some portion as re-export is consumed by Indian vehicles on Bhutanese roads transporting goods in and out of Bhutan.

The re-export of fuel decreased by 36 percent—22,625.31KL in 2019 from 35,143.83KL in 2018. 

The revenue from the supply of electricity increased from Nu 0.015 billion (B) in 2018 to Nu 0.02B in 2019, an increase of about 34.5 percent.

The industrial consumption of electricity increased by almost 95 percent, whereas the consumption of electricity by household continues to decline. The decrease last year was recorded at 77 percent. 

The import of kerosene decreased from 3,597.0KL in 2018 to 2,886.0KL in 2019, which was a decrease of about 20 percent. Since 2010, the import of kerosene had been decreasing. The lowest was recorded last year. 

This was because, except for household use, the use in industrial sector has decreased over the years. Rinchen Lhazom said that this could be because people were switching to clean energy for cooking and heating. 

In 2019, a total of about 95,592 cubic metre fuelwoods were supplied—39 percent by Natural Resources Development Corporation Limited (NRDCL) and 60.73 percent by the forest department. 

Household consumption accounted for almost 48 percent. Industries consumed the rest. 

According to records with NRDCL, stock of briquette increased to 373.44 MT, 14 percent increase, in 2019.

The National Statistics Bureau’s Annual Environment Statistics is expected to provide environment-related information in key economic sectors for informed decision making. 

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