Dechen Dolkar 

Electricity imports from India this winter will increase owing to the shutdown of 1,020MW Tala hydropower plant this year.

The hydropower plants across the country generate over 410MW in winter. The Tala plant contributes more than 45 percent of the total power generation during the lean season.

Bhutan usually imports electricity from India between December and February.

Economic Affairs Minister Loknath Sharma said, “This winter, we have to import a little more than the usual lean season amount because of the shutdown of the Tala plant for maintenance.”

“The Tala plant was shut down from midnight on December 31 of last year, and on average we have imported 210MW every day as of yesterday,” Lyonpo said.

Druk Green Power Corporation (DGPC) Managing Director, Dasho Chhewang Rinzin, said that the leanest river discharges are from the end of December until March and therefore, the shutdown of the Tala power plant has been scheduled accordingly.

He said that with the shutdown of the Tala power plant, the firm power capacity of 190MW of Tala is no longer available for Bhutan.

“Immediately upon shutting down Tala power plant on January 1, we started to import power from the Indian Energy Exchange,” he said, adding that buying from the Indian Energy Exchange was the approved mode of import possible from India, although Bhutan’s preference was for banking or a swapping of energy arrangement.

Dasho said that the DGPC anticipates that the country will import a daily average of 150-200MW of electricity from the Indian Energy Exchange and that the monthly imports in terms of energy will be around 130 to 140MU.

He also said that to defray the high costs of buying energy from the Indian Energy Exchange, the DGPC is scheduling the generation from their other plants in such a way as to import power from India during the off-peak hours when the tariffs are lower. “So in terms of electricity imports, we are varying from 0MW to 400MW, depending on the time of day.”

He said that this arrangement will continue until the Tala power plant is back in operation, which is scheduled for the end of March this year.

However, Dasho said that during previous lean seasons, Bhutan imported for grid stability and for short durations only, with Bhutan maintaining a net monthly export of electricity to India except in one case during the peak demand period of December to February.

“With that one instance of small import, the net import was netted off from the next month’s energy export quantum,” Dasho said.

Snowfall increased the generation 

Lyonpo said that the Tala plant was supposed to shut down on December 28 of last year; however it could not be shut down because the government didn’t get approval from India for power import. “The government only got approval on December 30.”

Lyonpo said that at the same time, Bhutan was lucky that there was snowfall at exactly this time on December 29 of last year, and therefore the snowfall has increased energy generation.

The generation during the lean season without snowfall would have been around 400MW but the snowfall increased it to 650MW, there is a substantial increase, but only for a few days.

Lyonpo said that the import of electricity was made from January 1.