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Are we serious?

There is an acute shortage of subsidised liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) in the country. The government, although not their making, is trying hard to solve the problem.

There is no end to the problem. We need solutions. One identified is to encourage those who can afford to surrender the subsidised cylinder so that the needy have access to cheaper cylinders. There is a colour code – blue and green. The green-coloured cylinder means you pay a few hundred ngultrums extra to forgo the subsidy.

But many are green-eyed on the initiative.

If yesterday’s planned event of swapping blue cylinders for green is anything to judge by, the blue kabneyclad parliamentarians are not keen on the solution. To the puzzled, shocked and embarrassed officials who came with three Hilux-laded green cylinders at the National Assembly parking lot, none came forward.

Perhaps, it was the inconvenience from wearing blue kabneys and lifting green cylinders when they have important issues to tend to. After all, 72 blue going green is hardly anything. But the event announced beforehand could have been symbolic, if not “leading by example” as elected leaders.

Relieving 72 subsidised cylinders, assuming each parliamentarian exchanges one of the many cylinders under their kitchen shelf, will not make a difference. But it was a good opportunity to create awareness and set example. It was a shame that the event flopped.

The next solution is to rely on electricity to substitute the import of LPG. It sounds good, but it is easier said than done.

We are rich in electricity. We pay the lowest rate in the region, we export electricity and therefore, we should switch to energy that is in abundance. The big question is all that runs down the gorges is not white gold. We have challenges here, aplenty.

Switching from gas to electricity has implications. Electricity rich Bhutan is in dire need of electricity. There is a huge growing demand for electricity. Domestic supply of electricity increased from 2.32B units in 2017 from to 2.08B units in 2016.

The number of households is increasing at a huge rate. In 2017 alone, 7,979 more domestic consumers were added to the grid. And with a focus on rural electrification works, the domestic consumption is on the rise.

That the construction of hydropower projects will generate more power is like putting the cart before the horse. Together with aggressive rural electrification and people switching from conventional source of energy to electricity, construction of new hydropower projects and more industries coming up is adding to increased domestic consumption.

Even if we can meet the increasing domestic demand, there is a loss. Domestic consumption continues to adversely impact the revenue inflow because of the differences between domestic and export tariff.

There are technologies that use electric energy efficiently. For instance, switching to induction cookers and LED bulbs will save energy. Electricity is clean and reliable.

But in the larger interest, it is more profitable to export the surplus electricity, at least for the government coffer. It is offsetting the cost of import of fossil fuel that we don’t have a choice.

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