Bhutan Shares Energy through Cross Border Interconnections
September 4, 2012 (TSR) – Bhutan is the only country in South Asia to have surplus electricity generation, with power export to India contributing 25 percent of the nation’s GDP (gross domestic product) during the wet months.
The other South Asian countries – India, Nepal, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Maldives – face a persistent energy shortage and outages that account for a loss of a minimum of two percent of GDP.
Srinivasan Padmanaban, director of South Asia regional initiative for energy (SARI), under United States agency for international development (USAID), presented this information at the South Asia regional two-day workshop on transmission operations for cross border energy trade in Thimphu, which ended Thursday.
The Chhukha Hydropower Project powered by Wangchhu is Bhutan’s oldest mega power project. The Chhukha Hydropower Plant was financed by the Government of India through an Agreement which was signed in 1974 between the two governments. The Chhukha Project Authority was formed in 1975 and it was entrusted with the responsibility of constructing and commissioning the project. With the infrastructure developments works completed during 1974-1978, the main civil and electro-mechanical works started in 1979. The project’s first 84 MW hydro-turbine Unit was commissioned on 7 September 1986 and by 22 August 1988 all the other three Units were commissioned. With the 336 MW installed capacity, the project generates over 1,800 million units annually. Most of the generated energy is exported to India. The erstwhile Chhukha Hydro Power Corporation Limited (CHPC) was formed on July 1, 1991 to operate and maintain the 336 MW power plant along with the associated transmission system that facilitates the export of the surplus power to India after meeting the requirement within Bhutan. With the formation of the Druk Green, CHPCL became an operational unit under Druk Green and is renamed as Chhukha Hydropower Plant (CHP).
“Regional decision makers now recognise that they lag behind in energy integration, and the need for a coherent policy, legal and regulatory framework model,” Padmanaban said.
“Energy diversification is a key driver, with several countries spending more than 10 percent of their forex on fossil fuel imports, and this makes a combined, diversified regional approach to resource use critical to energy security.”
Bangladesh has demand of 39,000MW by 2030, but resources for electricity generation are limited. Nepal has demand for 2,000MW by 2020, and depends on supply of 340MW in the dry season, and 600MW in wet season. New generation projects are constrained by limited evacuation capacity.
Pakistan faces power deficit of 4,000MW to 5,000MW, with 65 percent of generation being mixed thermal, and 31percent from oil-based generation. Losses and power sector debt amounts to Rs 300B.
Sri Lanka has a deficit of 1,868MW growing at 10 percent annually. The scope of further harnessing the hydro potential is limited, because of socio-environmental concerns, while resources for thermal generation are limited.
Maldives’ electricity demand will exceed supply by 2015, and space is lacking on the main island, Male, for additional generation capacity.
The director general of Bhutan’s department of hydropower and power system, Yeshi Wangdi, said India and Bhutan have identified 10 projects, of which three are under construction, and the rest expected to start construction by 2013, to harness 10,000MW by 2020.
“This would call for construction of numerous cross-border transmission lines and pooling stations, both within Bhutan and India, for evacuation of surplus power,” he said.
“However, for regional electricity trade to materialise, we have to start on ground with cross border interconnections and bilateral electricity trade, which then becomes a basis for graduating towards regional electricity trade.”
The director of Bhutan Power Corporation, Gem Tshering, said surplus energy generated in Bhutan only goes to India as of now, but that the workshop was a platform to discuss how SAARC countries can share energy through cross border interconnections.
The BPC director said that next September, Bangladesh will be connected to India through power transmission grid, and Bhutan’s power supply could flow into Bangladesh.
SAARC member countries also presented existing transmission operation practices, and stability and safety issues in cross border energy.