Exploring alternative energy for domestic use

August 26 | Kuensel
By Phub Dem

With hydropower facing many challenges, alternative renewable energy could come as a rescue.

As of today, hydropower remains the main source of energy. The country’s energy is completely dependent on rivers, which could pose challenges to energy security because of climatic changes, seasonal variations, and natural disasters.

There is also a reduction of 20 percent energy production during winter, which demands diversification in energy sources.

With rapid economic development, there is a sharp increase in demand for fossil fuel. Bhutan imports all petroleum products. The import has increased from Nu 1.1 billion (B) in 2002 to Nu 8.97B in 2017.

Realising the importance of a sustainable alternative, the Department of Renewable Energy (DRE) intends to distribute subsidised cooking stove to the poorer section of the country by the end of the fiscal year. The department also commits to create awareness to reduce the dependency on imported petroleum.

To promote the alternative use of renewable energy for domestic consumption, DRA aims to document the biogas implementation strategy by July next year.

A study conducted by DRE revealed that electricity meets only 28 percent of the total energy demand while the rest is met from other forms of energy that electricity does not substitute. The coal and derivatives formed 15 percent, petroleum products formed 21 percent and 36 percent is fuel-wood.

The director of DRE, Mewang Gyeltshen, said this indicates that electricity does not meet all the needs and other forms of energy are required to operate different technologies and processes, which are imported.

He also said there was an urgent need to explore alternative source of energy, at least for domestic use.

According to the director, alternative source of energy includes solar, wind and biomass. “Given the current level of investment in constructing hydropower plant, the stakes were too high if proactive investment action is not taken to protect the national interest in all possible ways.”

DRE, while signing its Annual Performance Agreement (APA) with the secretary of the economic affairs ministry earlier this week, committed to study the feasibility of renewable energy technology in the country.

Economic affairs minister, Loknath Sharma, said that individual household could build energy fields and contribute the surplus to the grid where Bhutan Power Corporation (BPC) will pay the household. “Fallow agricultural land can be used as an energy field. The natives will generate income for selling the surplus energy to BPC.”

There are around 1,400 households who did not receive on-grid electrification. Ministry officials confirmed that BPC was already working on it and the remaining household will receive electrification soon.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Economic Affairs has already approved the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Policy 2017. The policy is expected to manage the demand side- individual households and industries to consume less energy and to opt for renewable energy rather than imported petroleum.

The government had identified energy efficiency and conservation to mitigate Green House Gas emission based on recommendations from several studies.

An alternative energy policy was formulated in 2013 to promote the use of renewable energy resources for primary energy production. The policy seeks a preliminary minimum target of 20MW by 2025 through a mix of renewable energy technologies – solar, wind and biomass.

SAARC Development Fund showed interest to provide financial support through various projects in renewable energy.

According to the chief executive officer of SDF, Sunil Motiwal (PhD), Bhutan needs investment to finance both solar and wind energy projects in the country. “Bhutan receives good solar radiation and has abundant and reliable wind flow to harness wind energy. These substitutes can produce ample energy to meet local demand and can connect to the grid for additional production.”

He also suggested the concept of ‘Distributed Renewable Energy Generation’ (DREG) to reduce dependence on long transmission lines meeting local demands from far-flung hydropower stations. “SDF would be glad to support DREG in the country to produce additional electricity so that far-flung areas can be connected to the grid depending on the infrastructure available.

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