Hitting the highest power consumption levels since 2014

Choki Wangmo

The building sector in Bhutan consumes 41.6 percent of electricity, with the residential sector alone accounting for 33 percent of total energy consumption, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.

Records show that the sector’s energy consumption was 42 percent in 2014.

If such trends continue, Bhutan’s commitment to remain carbon negative could be jeopardised.

According to experts, the sector needs right guidance to meet energy requirements through energy efficiency practices.

Findings of the Energy Efficient Roadmap prepared by the Department of Renewable Energy (DRE) suggest that the government could bring in additional revenue of Nu 336 million annually by improving energy efficiency and standards in four major sectors: building, appliances, transport, and industry.

In Bhutan, modern constructions are found to be ill-suited for the local environment. “The lack of relevant smart designs, construction methods, and materials have created a current building stock with sub-standard indoor quality of life, as homes are uncomfortably cold during winter months.”

Poor quality homes drive up energy consumption, leading to significant economic, environmental and social costs.

Expected savings from energy-efficient practices amount to 17,033.51 metric tonnes (MT) of oil equivalent (TOE) with emission reduction potential of 87,384MT of CO2 equivalent over a period of 15 years with the selected energy efficient interventions.


What is an energy-efficient building?

DRE’s director, Phuntsho Namgyel, said that the building within the economic affairs ministry housing DRE and National Centre for Hydrology and Meteorology was the first energy efficient building in Bhutan.

The building, he said, had double glazing windows, rock wool insulation for decreasing heat leakage and increased thermal performance of the built space.

Some of the features include window frames covered with weather-stripping materials to reduce heat loss, centralised radiant hydronic floor heating system, which is one of the most efficient systems for space heating, solarium to trap natural heat for warming the building, and making use of natural sunlight to reduce artificial lighting needs of corridors and staircase.

“The roof also has 100mm thick rock wool insulation for controlling heat loss, and lighting in some common areas is powered through a solar rooftop system,” he said.

Phuntsho Namgyel said that energy consumption in the building sector could be reduced or managed easily but the lack of awareness among people is hindering the process.

He said that energy efficient interventions were comparatively costly in the beginning but the payback period is short.


What is being done?

Phuntsho Namgyel said that the department was exploring smart designs for an energy-efficient building sector.  Solar passive architecture is one among many.  The design takes advantage of the benefits of the local environment like sunlight, while minimising the adverse impacts of climate such as cold nighttime temperature on the comfort level of the building. “It’s a simple measure and doesn’t need huge investments.”

DRE has future plans to install 45 solar water heating technology in selected public institutions, commercial and residential establishments through deployment of a subsidy scheme.

The initiative is expected to enhance diversification of energy sources, save electricity, generate employment, promote entrepreneurship, and contribute towards greenhouse gas reductions.

With the support of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, the department has plans to develop an affordable and clean energy roadmap for Bhutan.

“This will enable policymakers to make informed decisions to support the achievement of goal 7 of the sustainable development goals: ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all,” according to the department’s social media page.

In collaboration with World Wildlife Fund Bhutan (WWF) and Bank of Bhutan, the department has promoted energy efficiency in buildings with bank’s corporate head office becoming WWF’s latest recruit in its international iconic building programme.

Last year, the department developed the Energy Auditing and Reporting Guidelines for Buildings and Industries to promote energy-efficient measures within the country.

According to WWF, to reduce the environmental impact of Bhutan’s building sector, individuals can understand electricity consumption by installing a data logger that provides data to monitor consumption. “Energy efficiency interventions in the building sectors alone have potential annual energy savings of 132 gigawatt hours of electricity.”

Globally, buildings and construction sectors consume close to 36 percent of all energy use and generate nearly 39 percent of all energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, research studies reported.