Author: Media and Communication


Financing issues causes delay in starting construction of Kholongchu Hydro Energy Limited

The Bhutanese | Dorji Choden | September 23, 2023

In February this year it was announced that the 600 MW Kholongchu Hydro Energy Limited (KHEL) would start construction by around June 2023 or mid 2023.

This was supposed to happen after securing the funding from the Power Finance Corporation (PFC) and the Rural Electrification Corporation (REC) which are both Public Sector Undertakings of India and are like public banks for power projects.

At the time it was said that Druk Green Power Corporation (DGPC) is hopeful that it can reach financial closure with these two companies with the support of GoI.

However, cut to the end of September 2023 the project is not progressing as initially planned or expected due to difficulties in securing the necessary funding. The project has hit a roadblock for now as the primary challenge at this stage revolves around obtaining the required financing, both in terms of debt and equity.

An official from the DGPC explained, “We are actively working to secure the debt financing required to advance the Kholongchu project. Once we secure the necessary funding, we will resume construction promptly. Even with the present exodus of Bhutanese (staff), the Kholongchu project implementation can be managed through proper planning and management.”

Since its inception, the project has invested over Nu 4.626 billion in building essential infrastructure, such as roads, power facilities, and residential and non-residential structures needed for the project. Some of these infrastructure projects are still ongoing.

The official further stated, “The primary civil construction works for the head race tunnel have already been initiated, and letters of award for major civil dam and power house works have been issued. However, all these major construction efforts are currently on hold due to the absence of financial closure, particularly for debt financing.”

With an installed capacity of 600 MW, the Kholongchu project is expected to generate 2,568 million units (MU) annually. This substantial energy production will enhance domestic energy availability and facilitate surplus energy exports to India, thereby improving grid connectivity and stability. These exports are also anticipated to generate much-needed revenue in the form of Indian Rupees.

Investments of this scale in hydropower projects often stimulate the local economy and increase demand for various goods and services. The local communities living near the project are expected to benefit from employment opportunities, not only with the project, itself, but also with contractors, suppliers, and support services that will emerge to meet project demands.

The improved road access is expected to stimulate local economic development and boost local businesses providing essential goods and services. The project’s support for a shared residential unit development scheme is backed by the project, offering housing options for tenants.

Recognizing the reality of climate change, the project anticipates alterations in hydrological discharges in the river. This includes more intense monsoons and milder winters in the Himalayan region. The project’s design and energy generation plans take these changes into account but remain adaptable over time.

While the project initially had a workforce of 194, it now employs only 31 individuals, primarily focused on continuing infrastructure work and security. Additionally, 63 Indian laborers and 16 Bhutanese laborers are actively engaged in ongoing infrastructure construction projects.

The DGPC regained full ownership by repurchasing Joint Venture partner Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVN) Limited’s shares in early 2023.

The DGPC and SJVN joint venture faced several issues from the start, but even as they were resolved some issues could not be resolved. One was the refusal to give 20% of the works on the dam to CDCL, another was over management control and the final issue was differences on raising financing.

The DGPC taking over the project will also give it full flexibility in terms of the management style and project implementation and also the technology to be used.

The aim is to finish the project within 5 to 6 years from the start of construction.

DoE aims to add 500 megawatts renewable energy to energy mix

Kuensel | Yangyel Lhaden | September 23, 2023

Low renewable energy share in total energy consumption

To increase the share of renewable energy (RE)  in the total energy mix— individual contribution of energy from various sources, the Department of Energy (DoE) is set to initiate 500 megawatts (MW) of RE projects across the country in the next five years.

This in light of an expected rise in energy demand, projected to peak more than  25,270.giga-watt per hour (GWh) in 2030, up from the current 5,000 GWh, last year.

How would 500 MW add to the energy demand?

Electricity today makes up only 37.6 percent of total energy consumption—electricity and thermal— while energy from alternative renewables such as solar and wind remained below one percent of total energy consumption, according to Bhutan Energy Data Directory (BEDD) 2022.

In 2022, the country consumed 793,363 tons of oil equivalent (TOE) energy. With one GWh equivalent to 85.98 TOE, 500 MW has the potential to contributeabout 53,000 TOE energy in a year  to the total energy demand.

TOE is a unit used to compare different energy sources based on their energy content.

The country has a potential to harness 12-gigawatt solar energy and 760 MW wind energy and has an installed capacity of 2,335MW, which is 7 percent of the country’s total hydropower potential.

Today, Rubesa Wangdue has a 600-kW (kilowatt) wind farm and a 180-kW solar farm. Aja Ney, Mongar, has an 80-kilowatt peak (kWp)  decentralised distribution generation powered by solar. There is also a 5 kWp solar plant in Mendrelthang, Lunana and a 17.3-megawatt peak  solar farm is being installed in Sephu.

However, the country’s energy supply still leans heavily on thermal sources like biomass, petroleum, coal and their derivatives.

Thermal energy sources like biomass which mainly consist of fuel wood for cooking and heating, petroleum, coal, and their derivatives accounted for a substantial 62.4 percent of total energy consumption last year.

“The use of thermal energy is more prevalent than the use of electricity because thermal energy is employed in all sectors, including buildings, transportation, and industry,” a DoE official said. “ Compared with 2014, overall energy consumption has increased in 2022 due to population growth, increased commercial activities, transportation and industrial expansion.”

Energy consumption increased from 650,220 TOE in 2014 to 752,441 TOE in 2022.

However, the energy data report highlighted a positive trend of reduced energy consumption in both the building and transport sectors compared its 2015 report, particularly noting the contribution of alternative renewable energy sources.

The comparison of energy consumption data between 2014 and 2022 for petroleum, coal and derivatives, and biomass shows a shift in the energy mix.

The building sector’s energy consumption dropped by over half last year, amounting to 154,176 TOE, compared to 2015. Additionally, the building sector’s biomass consumption was markedly lower, standing at 97,750 TOE in contrast to the 234,369 TOE recorded in 2014.

“While it is challenging to replace fossil fuels which are extensively used in sectors like building, transport, and industry, many initiatives are emerging to increase the adoption of renewable energy,” a DoE official said.

Moreover, since households currently benefit from a very low electricity tariff of Nu 2.66, with an additional 100 units provided free for rural households, other RE projects become comparatively expensive for households to adopt, the official said. “ This results in a low share of alternative renewable energy generation.”

What makes the energy mix

Within the energy mix, electricity constituted the largest portion of the total energy consumption, comprising 37.6 percent although thermal energy constituted the highest share in total energy consumption last year,followed by biomass at 25.2 percent, equivalent to 199,955.8 TOE, and coal and its derivatives at 19.6 percent totalling 155,699.5 TOE. Petroleum products represented 17.6 percent with 139,589.2 TOE, while electricity from alternative renewables such as solar and wind remained below one percent, according to BEDD 2022.

Comparing these figures to the 2015 energy data, in 2014, biomass dominated the energy mix, accounting for 234,369 TOE or 36 percent of total energy consumption while electricity contributed 28 percent or 182,092 TOE to the total energy consumption.

To increase the share of alternative energy in the total energy mix, the department is exploring various opportunities, including green hydrogen. They are also promoting the diversification of energy sources in the overall supply mix, which involves grid integration of other energy systems like solar, wind, and biomass, as well as the promotion of energy-efficient equipment for industries, among other initiatives.

“There are many initiatives that are coming up such as clean cooking project to reduce the use of liquefied petroleum gas and fuel wood and promotion of electric vehicles which is aimed to reduce dependence on fossil,” the DoE official said.

Import of electricity to surge in winter

Kuensel | Dechen Dolkar | September 23, 2023

… from three months to  five months now

Bhutan will have to import electricity from India for about five months during the lean season – from December this year to April next year, which could cost around Nu 6 Billion (B).

In the past, the Druk Green Power Corporation (DGPC) imported electricity only for three months. Given the increase in domestic demand, the pressure on imports has been on the rise with DGPC importing electricity for four months last year.

From December 2022 to March this year, DGPG imported 367.17 million units of electricity, worth Nu 1.75B

As per the lean season domestic demand and supply scenario study conducted by the Department of Energy, Bhutan Power Corporation, Bhutan Power System Operator, and DGPC, there is a requirement to import energy for five months from 2023 to 2024.

According to a senior official from the power sector, this is mainly on account of the substantial increase expected in domestic demand with several high-voltage consumers coming online.

The official said that during the five months, it is projected that over 1,500 million units will be imported. “Depending on the price of electricity on the Indian Energy Exchanges, the cost of import is estimated to exceed INR 6 B,” the official said.

During the five-month period, import is projected to exceed 800 MW at times.

Generations form hydropower projects are seasonal, with maximum generation occurring during the monsoon months from May to October, while generation drops drastically in the dry winter months from November to April, with February being the leanest month.

Currently, during the lean period, generation is about 400 to 450 MW, while the peak demand has crossed 750 MW and continues to grow.

The power official said that the current trend of needing to import power during the winter months is expected to continue at least for the next seven to eight years.

The import rates are higher than the export rates, but import could be planned to offset huge import bill. This is done through generating more energy by releasing water from the reserves during lean period. The demand for electricity drops in winter in India affecting the market price.  However, the per unit import rate is higher than the export rate. Last winter Bhutan imported at Nu 8.35 per unit.

Power officials said the export tariffs are based on long-term Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs ), while imports are being made from the Indian energy spot markets. The energy markets in India are emerging. “In future, there may be opportunities for more comparable energy import prices.”

Meanwhile, there will be an additional generation capacity from the 118 MW Nikachhu project, which is expected to be commissioned by the end of December 2023.

However, official said that the firm power capacity addition during the winter months from Nikachhu project will be 23 MW while the Punatsangchhu II project will add another 164 MW.

The firm power generation from these two projects will help reduce the import, but the deficit in the winter months will continue, which will need to be supplemented through imports.

The official said that the energy sector in Bhutan is working to diversify its energy supply options. Solar power is seen as a more cost-effective solution for supplementing some of the winter deficits.

“Plans are in motion to initiate and install some 500 MW of solar generation capacity over the next couple of years.”

Dam is back on the table for Punatsangchu I but subject to further geological studies

The Bhutanese | Tenzing Lamsang | September 16, 2023

Until recently, the eight-member expert committee that had been set up by Bhutan and the Government of India (GoI) were unable to agree on the future course of the 1,200 MW Punatsangchu-I, with the Bhutanese side insisting on a barrage due to safety concerns over the dam site, and the Indian side insisting that the dam can be done at the dam site.

However, the Bhutanese side has now softened its stance and has agreed to do a set of geo technical investigations on the right bank area and the dam site near it.

The findings are to look at the geological conditions.

This was decided in a Technical Coordination Committee (TCC) meeting between the two sides recently.

Based on these geological conditions the next stage will be to see if a dam can be built there and also what are the additional stabilization measures that are required.

The Indian counterparts have been asked to come to Bhutan by the end of this month so that they go to the site and jointly decide where the additional geo technical investigation needs to take place. The study will determine the geological model.

The Punatsangchu Hydroelectric Project Authority (PHPA) meeting will soon take the final decisions on what are the studies based on the recommendation of the TCC.

One of the underlying reasons for the new studies is to test the theory of the Indian side that the Bhutanese side could have been using a wrong set of geological conditions.

However, the decision to give a relook at the dam is not entirely technical but also political in nature.

The feeling is that the stuck nature of the P I project has become an impediment not only to the project itself but is also sending out a negative message for cooperation in other areas.

The approach in this softer Bhutanese stance is to see if the Indian proposal for a dam on the same site is feasible, but also to ensure that proper studies are done, safety is ensured and that there are certain guarantees.

On the technical side the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources and other Bhutanese counterparts have so far not been so keen on the dam proposal in the present condition of the right bank and have been pushing for the barrage.

However, the agreement to do the studies is a middle path taken by Bhutan.

A source said, “So the dam is not confirmed and barrage is not thrown away, but more or less the study is focusing to see if the dam can be done as there are already intake tunnels and everything is done and excavation is done for the dam. If the risk is equal to the barrage, then from the Bhutanese side there is no objection to do it. There should be no risk and they should be able to take any risk.”

The source said the dam is more favorable to the barrage from the Indian side and Bhutan has more or less agreed to the dam as long as the downstream safety, upstream safety, geological safety and the safety of the communities is assured.

One concern for Bhutan is that a lot of stabilization measures are done and the cost comes very high and so here the project should be able to pay the loan by itself.

“From our side they will have to do further geological investigation to make sure that it is stable and do counter measures. The current condition is not possible for us but they have said there is no more risk as the movement has stopped, but that should be assured with some more geological studies,” added the source.

The source said there has to be some conclusive geological studies and it has to be assured beyond doubt as the current conditions are not acceptable.

The Bhutanese side has so far insisted the shear zone or weakness is moving and continues to pose a risk while the India side believes the shear zone has come to the surface and stabilized.

The geological studies will consist of digging boreholes around 100 meters deep into the rocks to obtain the rock samples so that the geologists can study it.

The Bhutanese counterparts will be engaged in the studies too given what is at stake.

A nightmare scenario in the future is that a dam is built and then it fails after a few years wiping out P II project and settlements down stream in both Bhutan and India.

Another source said that discussions of what is to be done after the geological studies will take place at a later date.

This source said that as of now a decision is not taken but the dam at the original site is slightly better in terms of energy production and since they could not do it so far, it all depends on the study.

After geo technical investigation are over both sides will have to look at the possibility to stabilize the hill.

The source said the two government will have to sit down and see once the geological results come out.

After the geo technical investigations are done they have to decide on what are the measures that are necessary and whether it can be handled or not. A lot more questions will come after the studies.


In 2008 the then PHPA MD R.N Khazanchi proposed to change the original dam site to generate more power which was agreed to by the then cabinet.

A Joint Audit Report of the two countries said the PHPA, its main consultant WAPCOS and CWC knew that there were geological weaknesses at the right bank area but still went ahead with the tendering of the dam.

Instead of conducting further investigations WAPCOS, issued a clearance for the project dam bids to be opened on 16th February 2009.

The problem made itself known with a major slide on the right bank in July 2013 which at the time WAPCOS and the civil consultant CWC said could be fixed with Nu 3.5 bn of mitigation measures. However, despite the measures another major slide happened in August 2016 and again despite additional mitigation measures the same area slid on 22nd January 2019. A total of Nu 4.85 bn spent on mitigation measures had failed.

After this, the government in the 21st PHPA Authority meeting in January 2019 insisted to the Indian consultants to come up with a comprehensive solution.

The report was submitted by CWC on 1st October 2019 and detailed drawings later in December of the same year.

One suggestion of the CWC was that the dam on the right bank side be constructed over 288 concrete piles driven into the ground to avoid excavating the shear zone below the right bank side

The Bhutanese side not very convinced with the idea of concrete piles under the dam for the long term and feeling the need for an overall review of CWC’s proposal called for a review in the TCC meeting

The National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC) was then called upon to do a third party review of the WAPCOS and CWC proposal.

The NHPC in mid 2020 presented its review of the CWC report as a third party and disagreed with the CWC assessment and said it is not safe enough to build a dam.

The NHPC instead recommended to build a smaller structure in the form of a barrage 820 meters upstream of the current site.

The project authority asked the two companies with different findings to reconcile their contradictory findings. The two companies came back giving a factor of safety of 1.4 safe enough for a dam.

However, this called into question how the NHPC drastically changed its own stance and data to fit in with the CWC.

The government through DGPC hired a foreign company Stucky to do a review of the review which also showed the current site to be unsafe with a recommendation for a barrage.

If the dam is abandoned of the Nu 23 bn spent on it around half of the cost in other structures like the 4 large de-silting chambers and around 11 km of tunnels can be reused for the barrage.

The Indian side guided by WAPCOS continues to insist on the dam saying it is safe or enough mitigation measures can be taken while the Bhutanese side until now insisted on the barrage.

Nu 83 bn has been spent on the project so far.

Electricity-rich Bhutan still relies heavily on thermal energy

Kuensel | Yangyel Lhaden | August 10, 2023

While Bhutan achieved close to 100 percent electricity access by 2019, a year ahead of the 2020 target, the country’s energy supply still leans heavily on thermal sources like biomass, petroleum, coal, and their derivatives.

According to the Bhutan Energy Data Directory (BEDD) 2022, thermal energy accounted for a substantial 62.4 percent, while electricity made up 37.6 percent of the total energy consumption last year.

The data further reveals that thermal energy amounted to 495,244.5 tonnes of oil equivalent (TOE) from a total energy supply of 794,263.28 TOE, surpassing energy demand by 40,822.25 TOE.

TOE is a unit used to compare different energy sources based on their energy content.

Within this energy mix, electricity constituted the largest portion of the total TOE, comprising 37.6 percent, followed by biomass at 25.2 percent, equivalent to 199,955.8 TOE, and coal and its derivatives at 19.6 percent totalling 155,699.5 TOE. Petroleum products represented 17.6 percent with 139,589.2 TOE, while electricity from alternative renewables such as solar and wind remained below one percent, according to BEDD 2022.

Comparing these figures to BEDD 2015 data, the share of electricity in the energy mix increased in 2022. In 2014, electricity contributed 28 percent or 182,092 TOE to the total energy consumption, but in 2022, this number exceeded by about 115,000 TOE. The overall energy consumption in 2014 was 650,220 TOE, with biomass dominating the energy mix, accounting for 234,369 TOE or 36 percent of total energy consumption.

Furthermore, in 2014, the building sector heavily utilised biomass in the form of fuelwood for cooking and heating, constituting 41.58 percent of the country’s total energy consumption, equivalent to 270,356 TOE.

Specifically, thermal energy consumption in buildings stood at 242,916 TOE, while electrical energy consumption was just 27,440 TOE, according to BEDD 2015.

The BEDD 2022 report highlighted a positive trend of reduced energy consumption in both the building and transport sectors compared to the data from BEDD 2015, particularly noting the contribution of alternative renewable energy sources.

The comparison of energy consumption data between 2014 and 2022 for petroleum, coal and derivatives, and biomass shows shift in the energy mix.

The building sector’s energy consumption dropped by over half last year, amounting to 154,176.05 TOE, compared to BEDD 2015. Additionally, the building sector’s biomass consumption was markedly lower, standing at 97,750.5 TOE in contrast to the 234,369 TOE recorded in 2014.

In 2014, petroleum products accounted for 21 percent of the total energy supply, approximately 138,192 TOE, whereas in 2022, they constituted 19.6 percent of the supply, around 139,589 TOE. It shows a  slight decrease in the share of petroleum products, coupled with a marginal increase in actual consumption.

In contrast, coal and derivatives, comprising 15 percent of the energy supply— 97,657 TOE—in 2014, grew to 19.6 percent—155,699.5 TOE— in 2022. This shows there has been significant rise both in percentage and actual consumption.

Study urges broader focus beyond electricity access

Kuensel | Yangyel Lhaden | August 9, 2023

… in Bhutan’s new Alternative Renewable Energy Policy

As government mulls over the revision of Alternative Renewable Energy Policy (AREP) 2013, a recent study recommends including focusing on energy transition, livelihood improvement, green businesses, and job creation, moving beyond just electricity access. 

“Working Paper: Alternative Renewable Energy in Bhutan – Key Findings and Policy Recommendations,” authored by Avishek Malla and Pugazenthi Dhananjayan and published by International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development reviewed the current AREP 2013 with mixed research approach involving qualitative and quantitative methods and concluded with the recommendations.

The research involved a detailed analysis of statistical reports from various governmental and non-governmental organisations of national and international repute and relevant stakeholders. The study commenced with a policy stakeholder consultation meeting on December 21, 2021, and was followed by a week-long visit to Bhutan in April 2022 for data collection and consolidation.

The study highlighted that the current framework prioritises electricity access but overlooks energy transition and productive energy use. It also noted low local private-sector capacity and the absence of a gender equality and social inclusion component in the current ARE policy. While the policy emphasises small hydro, it lacks a set target for this technology. Additionally, the study underscored the importance of maintaining quality control for renewable technologies, among other points.

Bhutan achieved 100 percent electricity access in 2019, well ahead of the intended target in 2020.

The study stated that it is now the time  to think beyond electricity access and explore opportunities for clean energy transition; electricity now could be used to also create value-added products which can help in the growth of the economy.

The authors suggested an inventory of technologies on the least-cost approach in the local context and establish renewable energy technologies such as solar irrigation, solar dryers, and improved cooking stoves, among others.

During a site visit to Shaba village in Paro, it was found that the farmers there were unable to irrigate over 50 percent of their fields due to water shortage in the irrigation canals. Though the village is electrified and has ample water sources, its electric pump for water lifting was not in use, the study states. “On further investigation, it was found that low level of technological awareness, lack of finances for irrigation, and difficulty in accessing technology were some of the key barriers there.”

The study has made commendable remarks on various initiatives in the country to promote renewable energy resources, it noted that although policy commitments were still being met this has not yet resulted in genuine investments or a thriving market and industry.

The deployment of less than one megawatt of renewable energy in Bhutan reflects a low local private-sector capacity. The current policy restricts the growth of the renewable energy market to the institutional capacity of establishing pipelines by Department of Renewable Energy (DRE). The study highlighted that implementation methods based on customer demand were likely to be limited.

To support the renewable energy market, it is necessary to build overall capacity which requires a well-thought-out policy relating to partnerships with academic institutions which would offer renewable energy courses, ensure gender equality and social inclusion engagement and participation in key decision-making spheres, and take evidence-based policy actions to pave way for women-led and inclusive enterprises in order to facilitate and lead the energy transition as energy producers, energy brokers, and energy consumers, the study states. This will help develop capacity and create skilled manpower at the local level.

One of the recommendations from the study is to prepare energy demand and supply projection to identify renewable energy share in the energy mix, invest in tools and data for a clear assessment of renewable energy needs and goals to arrive at evidence-based decisions which would guide policy intervention to help the government set targets and commitments.

DRE is working on a prosumer revenue-generating system for consumers who could sell electricity if they produce in surplus from renewable technologies by feeding in the grid.

According to the study’s recommendations, there is a need for a clear definition of policies and regulations concerning connection capacity and meters. To encourage the production and distribution of renewable energy, it’s crucial to provide suitable incentives. Furthermore, the study suggests promoting the prosumer model. However, for stability and balance, it’s essential to establish a well-defined penetration capacity for the supply lines of distributed renewable energy.

The study showed examples from Nepal and India. In Nepal, the maximum allowed capacity penetration of decentralised renewable energy is 10 percent of the country’s total installed generation capacity while in India there are penetration categories on the lines: less than four percent for low, between four and 10 percent for medium, and more than 10 percent for high.

Some of the countries in the Hindu Kush Himalayan region have made great strides in adopting, executing, and scaling up renewable energy technologies. Bhutan could learn from these countries, but while doing so, it should shape the technological solutions to its own specific context and needs, the study states.

The study also pointed out that in order to ensure quality control in the renewable energy sector, there is a need for standardisation and the establishment of a renewable energy testing facility to come up with national standards to ensure uniformity across all aspects of procurement and implementation.

Assam CM: Regulated release of water from Bhutan’s Kurichhu dam ensured no severe flooding

The Economic Times | Bikash Singh, Guwahati | July 15, 2023

Unlike in the past, release of water from Bhutan Kurichhu dam has not led to severe flooding along the villages in Assam’s Baksa and Chirang districts.

This has been made possible following regulated and controlled release of water from Kurichhu Hydropower Plant.

Speaking to reporters at Assam House here on Saturday, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma disclosed that the Government of Assam had urged the Bhutan government to release water from the dam in a ‘controlled way’ in the morning hours, instead of at night.

Bhutan to release excess water from Kurichhu Dam; district administrations directed to be on guard

Asian News International | July 13, 2023

Assam Government has alerted all the district administrations bordering Bhutan to remain vigilant and assist the people in every possible way after the neighbouring country issued a notification confirming an excess release of water from the Kurichhu Dam.

Taking to Twitter, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma confirmed the same.

“The Royal Government of Bhutan has informed us that tonight there will be an excess release of water from the Kurichu Dam. We have alerted our district administrations to remain vigilant and assist the people in every possible way in case the water breaches the Beki and Manas rivers,” Sarma said in a tweet.

The notification from the Bhutan government confirmed that the Druk Green Power Corporation (DGPC) will be carrying out a Reservoir scouring of the Kurichhu Hydropower Plant by Friday night.

Assam’s Water resource minister, Pijush Hazarika conducted a visit to assess the riparian areas alongside the river. “The Chatrang River in Gahpur had been responsible for recurrent floods, resulting in damages to the local community. Today, I conducted a visit to assess the riparian areas alongside the river. It was determined that a guard wall will be constructed to fortify the remaining sections of the riverbank. Notably, guard walls were already erected in certain areas last year. I also inspected the erosion that occurred in the Kukurjan and Dubia areas. The Water Resources Department has initiated temporary preventive measures in this location,” the minister tweeted.

Sephu hosts Bhutan’s first mega solar power plant

Kuensel | Yangyel Lhaden | July 13, 2023

… the installation is expected to complete by end of December 2024

The groundbreaking ceremony for the country’s first mega solar power plant with a capacity of 17.38-megawatt was held in Sephu, Wangdue yesterday.

The plant, which is expected to complete by the end of 2024, will occupy 65.49 acres in Yongtru village.

The plant can generate 25 million units of energy which would be fed to the national electricity grid. On average, an urban household consumes five-kilowatt energy. This means the Sephu plant can power 3,476 households.

Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, Loknath Sharma said, “Sephu solar plant is the first medium solar farm in the country.”

The minister said that Sephu solar plant marked the beginning of achieving a 500-megawatt energy target through solar power in the next three years. He said that the plant project is undertaken by the ministry. “The other projects would be carried out by Druk Green Power Corporation Limited.”

The government plans to achieve solar energy generation of 500 megawatts by 2025 and 1,000 megawatts by 2030.

Lyonpo thanked the people of Sephu gewog, former and current gups of Sephu, and dzongkhag for supporting the project despite the fact that there might not be immediate gains for the community. “It is a huge support from the community towards achieving the country’s energy mix and security.”

In 2021, the first planned mega solar power plant, a 30 megawatt, in Shingkhar Bumthang was dropped because the community refused to give clearance for various reasons.

The plant was expected to generate 46.19 million units of energy annually with an annual revenue generation of Nu 233.725 million.

The ministry also cancelled a project to construct a 23-megawatt wind power plant in Gaselo, Wangdue.

The Shingkhar and Sephu solar power plants and Gaselo’s wind farm were part of ministry’s plan in 2020 to install three major renewable power plants with funding from ADB. When Shingkhar solar power plant was dropped the ADB couldn’t fund the wind farm as it became economically non-viable.

As per the Renewable Energy Management Master Plan 2016, it is estimated that Bhutan has the potential to produce 12 gigawatts of solar and 760 megawatts of wind energy.

The energy department has installed a 276.7-kilowatt solar power system, besides the Sephu solar plant, and about 1,450-kilowatt solar power system has been installed by other agencies. 

The energy department installed the first 180-kilowatt grid-tied solar plant in Rubesa, Wangdue, 11.7-kilowatt grid-tied solar panel at the energy and natural resources ministry’s compound, and 80-kilowatt off-grid solar pant at Aja ney, Mongar among others.

This year, Bhutan Solar Initiative Project installed one grid-tied solar plant each at Centenary Farmers’ Market and Dechencholing with a capacity of 250 kilowatts and 500 kilowatts respectively.

Committee experts indecisive on barrage option for PHPA I

Kuensel | Dechen Dolkar | July 6, 2023

The Inter-Government Group (IGG) committee has still not decided on whether to construct a barrage and dam for the 1,200MW Punatsangchhu Hydroelectric Project (PI) in the last six months since it was formed in January.

The eight-member committee of four experts each from Bhutan and India reviewed the proposal to build a barrage to replace the dam at PI for six months.

The issue was deliberated in the Parliament yesterday. During the presentation of the Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC) review Report on Annual Audit Report (AAR) 2021-22, yesterday.

The PAC Chairperson, Bardo-Trong MP Gyambo Tshering, said that the IGG committee conducted numerous meetings and consulted with the experts and visited both dam and barrage sites.

“The final meeting of the IGG was scheduled on June 8-9, 2023 and the IGG’s report was expected by June end after which a clear decision for barrage or dam or a way forward for PHPA-1 was expected,” the Chairperson said.

Energy and Natural Resources Minister, Loknath Sharma, said that the last meeting of the IGG was done last month and no more meetings of the IGG are expected further.

“However, they could not decide and come to an agreement.”

Lyonpo said that the committee meetings were held in Delhi and Bhutan as well and they have visited the PI sites.

According to the Terms of Reference (TOR) of the committee, they were supposed to submit their report to the two governments after their meetings. It was learnt that the IGG is yet to finalise its report.

As per the TOR of the IGG, a presentation of the IGG’s progress and findings are to be made to the two governments before finalising the report.

It was learnt that as soon as a date is set, the IGG will make a presentation of its findings to the two governments. The final report will be submitted only after presenting the findings to the two governments in keeping with the IGG’s TOR.

According to sources, once the findings of the IGG are presented to the two governments, a way forward should emerge for the Punatsangchhu-I project.

“From our side, Committee for Coordinating Secretaries (C4CS) will present a report to the government of India and from their side they will appoint one secretary to present the report,” Lyonpo said, adding that then it will be decided through the diplomatic channel on the way forward.

Lyonpo said that Nu 25 billion was spent on the construction of the dam and the project has spent Nu 85 billion so far.

Lyonpo also said that every day, IDC stands at Nu 13 million, the interest rate at 10 percent and the interest rate stands at Nu 45 billion so far.

“It will cost around Nu 17 billion for barrage and complete within 3 to 4 years,” Lyonpo said.

Lyonpo said that the report would be presented to the government within July and it would take another two months to decide on a way forward.

Paro Member of Parliament Ugyen Tshering said that Pl is incurring loss to the nation in two ways, one in revenue loss and increasing interest during construction (IDC).

MP said that it was supposed to decide on which option is feasible in June this year.

The Joint Sitting endorsed all resolutions of the 7th Session, yesterday.