People still fall back on solar energy despite being on the grid since 2011

Electricity: Power supply in Phobjikha and Gangtey gewogs of Wangdue has been cut off for the last four days.

Erratic power supply has remained a persistent problem for the two gewogs but, unlike in the past, solar panels that were used as backup couldn’t work because of weather conditions.

A Phobjikha resident, Euden, said frequent blackouts have become a norm.  Despite being connected to the grid since 2011, people are still dependent on solar energy.

Another villager, Sonam said that since most of them offered home stay, it was important that their homes had power supply. “Some tourists don’t like to spend the nights in darkness, but some do understand our problem,” she said.

Despite several complaints and requests, villagers said there has been no sign of improvement.

Phobjikha gup Jamtsho, in an earlier interview, said the power went off whenever it rained, during snowfall and on windy days. “The problem is so frequent that we even hesitate to complain about it now,” he said.

There are about 370 households in Phobjikha.

Some villagers feel that the situation might improve if the Bhutan Power corporation (BPC) could change the direction of the power line.

Wangdue’s BPC manager Dilli Ram Adhikari said the power problem this time was due to falling of trees on electricity poles and lines following last week’s windstorm.

The windstorm, he said, had affected four places in Taksha and eight places in Phobjikha, and also bent seven electricity poles in Taksha.

“We’ve sent people to two places, one to Sha-Ngwang and Gogona, and another between Kamichu and Pinsa,” said the manager. “We’re trying our best to find the faults and rectify as soon as possible.”

For Phobjikha, he said, the main power was between Khotakha and Phobjikha.  Unlike other places, the electric cables run underground in Gangtey and Phobjikha, so that they don’t harm the habitat of the endangered black-necked cranes.

“Manpower shortage and blackouts in places that are far from the office station in Bajo are a major problem,” BPC officials said. “When we’re off to correct one fault, we receive complaints from another place.”

By Dawa Gyelmo,  Wangdue