Firewood has been the primary source of cooking energy in Bhutan with a high per capita firewood consumption. However, over the years the fuel mix has been changing depicting an increasing share of clean fuel such as electricity and LPG.

This is according to a research paper presented at the international conference on “sustainable and renewable energy development and design” held in Thimphu earlier this month.

The research paper authored by Roshan Chhetri and Dawa Chhoedron, Tilak Sunwar and Dr Duane Robinson of The College of Science and Technology (SCT) attributes the ambitious rural electrification programme and other initiatives such as the promotion of biogas plants and improved cooking stoves by the Department of Renewable Energy complemented by other government initiatives.

Nonetheless, the Bhutan Energy Data 2015 reveals that 84.67 percent of the total energy consumption came from firewood. Heating and cooking consumes the maximum energy.

(Dr) Tshewang Lhendup of the Phuentsholing-based CST, said it was one of the core mandates of the college to carry out research and come up with new ideas.

Researchers from Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Europe presented their research works at the conference.

Bhutan is blessed with abundant resources, and about 99 percent of households have received electricity. The research paper states that there is a massive opportunity to switch to modern, clean and efficient cooking technologies such as induction cookers and reduce the overall fuel consumption.

As induction cooker is a fairly new concept in the country but users are skeptical of the technology due to lack of awareness. There are many factors that affect the decision to choose one technology over the other.

In the country’s rural areas, fuel wood-based cooking is a common and effective solution considering the benefits, accessibility and social and cultural reasons.

The market mechanism and accessibility issues can be controlled and influenced to achieve the desired result of having an integrated cooking solution which is beneficial to the end users as well as the nation. This, however, the research paper states can be achieved successfully if supported by a scientific and evidence based approach.

An understanding of end users’ energy use patterns is important for energy management, according to the research. A proper research and adoption of a better technology on the current energy use pattern would reduce the consumption of firewood.

Such an effort, it states, would also not only help reduce the emission of greenhouse gases at a macro level but also benefit end-users.

MB Subba