By Sherab Lhamo

Many rural communities in the country do not have access to a stable power supply although Bhutan is a major exporter of electricity to India.

Bardo-Trong MP Gyambo Tshering, during the question-and-answer session at the National Assembly yesterday said that people of remote areas in Samtse, Sarpang, Samdrupjongkhar, and Zhemgang dzongkhags experience frequent power outages, leaving them dependent on private generators.

The power supply is erratic in Panbang, Dorokha and Sipsu, Weringla, Jomtsangkha, and Lhamoizingkha.

The Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering while acknowledging the concern said that the issues would be resolved soon.

He said that the rural communities have access to only 33 kilovolts, just enough to run the household appliances and light the house. To run large machines, the supply has to be in megawatts, which the government couldn’t provide yet. “These recurring issues are not caused by low voltage but the quality of the amenities.”

Transformers, he said, are substandard. The government in collaboration with the Bhutan Power Corporation Limited plans to install quality transformers that can help detect redundancy faster.

The outages are also caused by weather conditions such as lightning and thunderstorms that cause short circuits in electric poles.

“To fix these issues, we have to insulate the wires and secure them, so that we don’t have to spend a significant amount for maintenance,” Lyonchhen said.

Challenging weather conditions, he said, delays maintenance as the team cannot reach the damaged sites on time. There are plans to relocate the electrical lines near the road, but at a higher cost.

But, to ensure constant power supply, small power plants will have increased capacity. For example, the capacity will be increased from 50 to 100 megawatts. In places like Haa, Lhuntse, and Zhemgang, the project has already started while other four places are identified for the next projects.

Such projects will help address the challenges of power fluctuations in the aforementioned places. The Druk Bindu Hydropower project will supply power to Samtse. Similarly, there are plans to start a project in Jomri that will be connected to Merak Sakteng and Dewathang. This, he said, will help to reduce power loss.

“As the use of electricity is expected to increase in the future, we are focused on increasing the production” he added.