Basic economics tells us that if we have limited means to earn, it is wise to cut down on waste. The energy efficiency and conservation policy launched yesterday is based on this simple concept.

Simply put, there is the possibility of earning Nu336M every year if we can plug the holes and improve energy efficiency and standards. The amount estimated is a lot of money—enough to fund several blacktopping of gewog roads or dialysis machines or Toyota Prados.

But this is not the first time we are hearing how much we can save from being efficient. In fact, the figure was almost double according to a 2017 estimate. It was estimated that Bhutan could earn Nu 621M annually.  There is no study done on how much we have saved since we first identified the opportunity.

Hopefully, the reduced estimate of Nu336M is because of measures put in place over the last many years.

The source of revenue is limited. The domestic share is even smaller. If there are ways to raise it, we should go full-on. Electricity is our main export and the highest revenue generator. If we can export what is being wasted, the difference in price charged for export and domestic consumption could result in revenue.

But it is easier said than done.

Since 2017, we waited for a policy even after realising the potential. If we had gone ahead, we would have been a lot richer, going by the projections.

However, there is a policy now. In the words of the economic affairs minister, a policy woken up from its “death bed.”  The savings are estimated from four major sectors—building, appliances, transport and industry.

There were some initiatives taken in the past like distributing energy-efficient bulbs. The aim was to eventually replace all bulbs in the country with Light Emitting Diode (LED), known to be energy efficient. There was a rush for the subsidised LED bulbs. That’s all what the people remember.

With awareness, more and more people are opting energy-efficient bulbs and appliances at homes. They know it saves money. We need not tell people how to save money. The issue is with institution or offices where the cost is borne by the government.

We can surmise that even as the policy was launched, there would be panel heaters left on, day and night, offices fully lit even on a bright sunny day and many more that are wasting energy.

Studies were done on how investment and adopting cleaner technology could save energy in our power-intensive industries. There is no report on how consumption has changed. Power is cheap in the country. In fact, some of our industries make profit from just cheap energy.

There is now a policy. If it is implemented and monitored, we could save millions. We may take pride in exporting clean electricity, but when it is compared to import of fossil fuel, we are in the negative. This does sit well with “carbon negative” Bhutan.

The pressure on our main export is already being felt with increasing domestic consumption and increases the subsidy.

It is high time we tighten our kera (belt).