When the 30 mega-watt- Shingkhar mega solar project was stalled last year, following problems with the community’s clearance, both bureaucrats and observers following the project closely were troubled.

However, the economic affairs ministry declared that a 17 megawatt project would begin in Seyphu, Wangdiphodrang. The ministry has obtained dzongkhag and community clearance for the site in Seyphu.

Once complete, the plant is expected to generate 26.15 million units of electricity, earning annual revenue of Nu 132.29 million at the domestic tariff rate of Nu 5.06 per unit. The plant has the capacity to reduce 24,495.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions if plant-generated energy is exported.

Work was supposed to begin this year. We are waiting for progress on the ground. We can’t delay any more.

By the end of September, we will have more than 300 electric vehicles on our roads. It is already becoming popular among taxi drivers. Adding a little more to the incentives they enjoy over those who own and drive fossil-fueled vehicles would bring more such environment-friendly vehicles. Improving convenience and making EVs more affordable would draw many future car buyers towards the cleaner option. Other small changes could be replacing solar-powered street lights which alone could go a long way in reducing expenses for the government.

The recent spikes in fuel prices have shown how vulnerable we are. If we remain idle spectators our trade deficits will only worsen deeply denting our national aspirations to become a self-reliant country.

About 70 percent of our energy demand is met by fossil fuel and biomass. On the other hand, the hydropower plants, our major source of clean energy, are exposed to glacial lake outburst floods and changes in hydrology.

Considering innovations such as the growth of battery storage technologies in the coming years, the future development of hydropower could become irrelevant due to higher costs, and environmental and social factors.

While the threats from climate-induced disasters grow each year, the need for enhanced energy security, and investing in energy sources beyond hydropower or alternative renewable energy is compelling. A large-scale solar and wind project takes only about 18 to 24 months to construct and commission.

Bhutan, despite its mountainous terrain, is blessed with good solar and wind resources in some pockets. Reports say it is technically feasible to produce 12 gigawatts of solar and 760 megawatts (MW) of wind energy. But our current installed capacity for renewable sources, apart from our hydropower plants, remains at a meagre 9MW. We are yet to realise our full potential in terms of renewable energy.

We know energy drives economic growth and powers human development. A country drawing energy from sustainable renewable sources can rightly say that it is on the low-carbon path.