The demand for briquette has remained stable over the years despite efforts made to discourage the use of wood stoves or bukharis to warm homes in Thimphu.

Alongside, demand for kerosene, for the same purpose, has increased in the capital city.

Urban Bhutanese seem to prefer their kerosene heaters and bukharis over electric heaters.

For a country that aspires to be an environmental model to the world, this is a paradox that occurs every winter.

An environmentally conscious society, we should be using electricity to heat our homes, not fuels that pollute the environment.

But those in favour of using briquette, wood, and kerosene, have two strong arguments.

One, their homes are warmer and two, many feel the fuels they use are cheaper than using electricity.

In many Western and European countries, much colder than ours, many homes are warmed using electricity. But it is the design of the building that keeps such homes warm. Perhaps, it it timely that our building code require that features that keep the heat in or insulate homes from the cold are incorporated. Features like double glazed windows, and insulation of walls and ceilings could be introduced or suggested. Those building houses could be made aware of the benefits, both in terms of comfort and energy cost savings, by concerned agencies and provided incentives as well.

While Bhutan has an abundant supply of electricity, only set to increase in coming years, many urbanites feel their electricity bills are too high, especially, during the winter months.

We have an increasing number of equipment, besides our heaters, plugged into the electric grid, like rice cookers, water heaters, ovens, televisions, washing machines, fridges, and more recently, induction cookers, among others.

There are ways to use such equipment more efficiently and save on electricity. While advertisements have been played on national TV to show how to save energy and are available online, perhaps more awareness can be raised on this front. Showing people how much they can save by for instance, switching to compact fluorescent lamps rather than using normal bulbs, or if they unplug the rice cooker, could be more convincing rather than just pointing out the do’s and don’ts.

Ensuring that the electricity infrastructure is more reliable both outside and inside homes is also another important factor that needs to be pursued indefinitely. While the supply of electricity in Bhutan is significantly more reliable compared to the region, power cuts during the winter, or during snowfalls still do occur. By ensuring a high up-time of around 99 percent, confidence in depending on electricity as an alternative to fuels will increase.

Perhaps then will Bhutanese urbanites prefer electricity over dirty fuels.