Planned Nikachu and Kholongchu projects demand more power during construction phase
Hydropower: Power imports for Bhutan, a hydropower rich nation, is likely to further increase as the construction of 118MW Nikachhu and 600MW Kholongchhu hydropower projects gain momentum.
Coupled with establishment of a few small-scale industries in the east and the 26MW power guzzler, Dungsam Cement plant, the import of power through the Kurichhu system, the main generator of power in the east, is expected to increase.
With a generation capacity of only 60MW, Kurichhu is not able to cater to domestic demand and to make matters worse, the eastern grid has to operate in isolation from the western grid.
In addition, the Druk Green Power Corporation’s (DGPC) head of corporate planning and strategy division, Passang Dorji, said an aggressive rural electrification strategy has also increased domestic consumption.
Over the last couple of years, hydropower activities such as construction of the Punatsangchhu I and II, Mangdechhu and Dagachhu, the commissioning of the Dungsum Cement plant and increasing coverage of electricity, more people switching to electricity as a source of energy from the other traditional sources like fuel wood and kerosene, had increased demand.
Although Bhutan recorded its lowest overall energy generation in 2014 since 2007 due to poor hydrology, Bhutan imported 131 million units (MU) of energy till September. From January to September this year, Bhutan imported 109MU of power. For the same period in 2013, the import was only 72.8MU.
In January alone this year 30MU of electricity were imported. This is the highest amount ever imported in the first month of the last three years.
The projection is that the domestic demand will continue to grow gradually in the short term, until the first mega power project is commissioned.
Discharge in the rivers differ with weather patterns, monsoon rains and winter snowfall.
While 2013 was quite a good year in terms of hydrology, generation during peak winter months drop to 284MW against the total installed capacity of 1,488MW, excluding the 126MW Dagachhu.
But officials from DGPC said domestic demand management has been mainly achieved through restrictions on approving new energy intensive industries for the time being.
Even though 2013 was considered as a good year for the hydropower plants, compared to the last three years, the trend from January to September, this year records the highest energy generation.
This was due to better hydrology from the pre-monsoon rain.
In a span of nine months, the country generated 5,940MU of electricity against 5,661MU last year and 5,861MU in 2013, for the same period.
As per records maintained by Department of Hydropower & Power Systems, this April, in comparison to previous April months since 2007, saw the highest energy generation of about 388MU, bringing a revenue of Nu 622M. April last year saw the least generation of 232MU.
The pre-monsoon rain has resulted in a 67 percent increase in generation in April and about 33 percent in May this year, compared to last year. However, in the peak months of July, August and September, the generation this year decreased slightly.
Power generation from the Tala project was enhanced by 93MU after diverting the Tsibjalumchhu stream to the Tala dam in June 2014.
Meanwhile, the Kurichhu hydropower project is expected to liquidate its loan in January next year. The final cost of the Project, including 68km transmission line from Gyalpozhing to Nanglam, was Nu 5.6B. Interest accrued during construction amounted to around Nu 1B. The repayment of the loan amounting to Nu 2.2B to the Indian government started in July 2004.