Phub Dem 

Riding on the principle of a green and energy-efficient future, RENEW’s (Respect, Educate, Nurture and Empower Women) renovated building becomes a model energy-efficient infrastructure in the country.

Her Majesty The Queen Mother Sangay Choden Wangchuck and Her Royal Highness Eeuphelma Choden Wangchuck graced the inauguration of the building and  launched the solar power plant (Photovoltaic Plant) on May 14.

The renovated structure is insulated and powered by solar energy to reduce energy consumption and produce green energy.

The structure used methods such as installation of double-glazed windows and insulation of the entire building with rock wool. These methods, according to the Project Director for PRuDent (Project for Rural Development), Uwe Drager(PhD), help conserve energy inside the building and bring down the energy consumption by around 40 percent. “The methods can be used in already existing structures.”

The building has a 42 KW/h grid-tied solar photovoltaic on the roof, which produces carbon-free green electricity. The photovoltaic plant will produce about 65,000 kW/h solar energy annually for an expected life span of 30 years.

He said the old building consumed about 45,000KWh per year.   

The project was completed by PRuDent between 2020 and 2021 with financial support from the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in collaboration with the German Sparkassenstiftung for International Cooperation. The B&C Foundation, a partner organisation of the Gyalyum Charitable Trust, also funded the project.

The project is worth more than Nu 18M.

Uwe Drager said that the RENEW building is an exhibit of energy efficiency and displays the opportunities for energy efficiency and photovoltaic systems in Bhutan. “It serves as an example to promote green energy, sustainable development and eco-friendly modernisation in the country.”

According to him, the double-glazed windows are expected to reduce heating costs besides being noise-proof and environment friendly. The facade insulation of walls using rock wools will reduce heat loss, saving energy consumption by about 20 percent.

He said that the photovoltaic system produces electricity even with minimal solar radiation and has financial advantages; the system saves the cost of electricity due to fewer purchases and compensation for the excess electricity fed into the public grid.

“The grid-tied rooftop solar PV system at the building is first of its kind in the country and can serve as a pilot to generate useful data for upscaling such initiatives in the country,” he said.

The solar PV is projected to generate close to 66,000 kWh per year.

Citing some of the challenges while working on the project, Uwe Drager said that there was no standard, numerous agencies were involved and it took a long time.

He said that the policymakers should come up with a feed-in compensation model for the excess energy that is fed into the public grid. “Having compensation models will boost people to invest in such initiatives.”

Way forward

While hydropower is the main source of electricity in the country, according to Phuntsho Namgyal, director of the Department of Renewable Energy, heavy dependence on a single source of domestic energy supply, reliance on imported fossil fuels and lack of awareness of energy efficiency are some issues that require urgent attention.

Although Bhutan has a hydropower capacity of 2,326 megawatts, it can generate only 400 megawatts, hardly meeting domestic energy demand during the lean season.

He said that domestic energy consumption has been rapidly increasing every year. Last winter, the peak demand in January was 490 megawatts, which is higher than the domestic generation. “Bhutan imported electricity from India for around 75 days totalling around 240 kilowatt-hours.”

Considering the requirement of energy to power heavy industry, emerging businesses for automation, digital and technology growth, he said that it was essential to harness alternative energy to enhance national energy security.

He said that the department is trying to promote utility and commercial photovoltaic and solar rooftop systems so that individual households can become both the producers and the consumers of electricity. “The users will be empowered to generate electricity for their consumption and sell the excess generation into the grid.”

The department, he said, is also working on finalising policies and guidelines for net metering, energy trading and billing.

Net metering is a billing mechanism that credits solar energy system owners for the electricity they add to the grid.

“In addition, grid integration regulations are now being finalised. Such regulations are very important to keep our electricity distribution grid stable and safe,” Phuntsho Namgyal said.