By Passang Norbu
The dragon didn’t really thunder last year as far as the hydropower sector was concerned; it recorded its lowest energy generation last year since 2007.
This came at a time when the economy was already reeling from a liquidity crunch. Revenue from hydropower sale to India dipped by a billion ngultrums.
The managing director of Druk green power corporation, Dasho Chhewang Rinzin said the country registered its lowest hydropower generation since the DGPC was established.
The drop in revenue was attributed to poor hydrology and increased domestic consumption.
Towards the end of last year, hydropower officials entered into a new agreement with the Indian government to barter power with the neighboring state of West Bengal. It is projected that Bhutan would be importing 52 megawatts of electricity in the 2013-14 winter months.
But amidst the hills and river basins the dragon continued to roar as construction of new hydropower projects continued in full swing. The year also saw the beginning of the construction of the 720-megawatt Mangdechhu hydropower project in Trongsa.
The construction of its dam, the main component of the project, will begin this year after the river is diverted by June this year.
Sunkosh is expected to begin this year and Kurigongri next year. The construction of all the hydropower projects under the 10,000MW initiative is expected to begin before 2016, the year, which will see the commissioning of the Punatshangchhu I hydropower project in Wangude
The 126MW Dagachhu hydropower project has been delayed almost three times leading to a cost overrun of Nu 2.4B.
With the economy already facing a shortage of cash, the project could not raise money from the local market and the Druk green power corporation decided to look for money from the Indian market by way of external commercial borrowing.
The feasibility of the Bunakha hydropower project has been studied twice during the year and the project conceived to be a reservoir scheme. As a reservoir, the project will also channel water to the three projects downstream and derive equal remuneration from them during the dry season. The three projects downstream are Chhukha, Tala and Wangchhu.
As of today, Bhutan does not have any reservoir scheme, which could help to up generation during the winter season when water flow is low.
The hydropower sector came under scrutiny during the year as a result of the various studies being conducted on the shortage of rupee. Some experts identified the sector to be contributing to the rupee shortage.
The sector was also identified to be a significant consumer of fuel and electricity as machines work around the clock. It was estimated the hydropower sector alone would require around 27 MW of electricity this winter at any point of time.
While the money for the actual construction of hydropower came from India in the form of rupees, it was the auxiliary activities generated by the hydropower sector that was to be blamed for the increased outflow
Domestic electricity tariff will be revised this year by July and the DGPC and the Bhutan power corporation are already working on the rates that will be proposed for revision to the Bhutan electricity authority.
By 2016, when the Punatshangchhu I is commissioned, electricity cost is expected to double as the cost of constructing Punatshangchhu is more than that of Tala.
Tala’s cost works out to be Nu 40M a megawatt while it would be Nu 80M a MW for Punatshangchhu.
The year of the snake will see even more hectic activity in this sector as the four joint venture projects, which has a combined capacity of 2,050 MW, and the Sankosh will begin this year.