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Energy security: But more could be done

The country is expected to invest more in renewable energy sector in the next five years. This is good news.

When it comes to energy, we have only invested in hydropower. This, according to experts may be not sustainable in the long run. When we talk about investment, we are talking about our economy.

The need to tap sources of energy other than hydropower so becomes all the more important. With climate change accelerating by the day, depending on the sources of energy that is glacier fed could be highly risky. We may have abundant water now, but time will come when retreating glacier will not feed our turbines to produce enough electricity even to light our homes. Our total reliance on hydropower generation ought to be looked at from the demand side, which will only grow in the future.

Given that fossil fuels are non-renewable, fast depleting and prices are highly volatile, Department of Renewable Energy (DRE) is working to pursue development of non-conventional renewable energy sources to reduce import of fossil fuels and enhance the energy security of the country. It has the mandate to explore, promote emerging renewable energy technologies, and to conduct research and development to make the technologies appropriate, affordable and cost competitive in future.

This is the only sensible way to look at the country’s energy security. Some little investments are made to tap solar and wind energy, but more needs to be done. Worldwide, by 2040, renewable energy is projected to equal coal and natural gas electricity generation. Denmark, Germany, the state of South Australia and some US states have already achieved high integration of variable renewables. For example, in 2015 wind power met 42 percent of electricity demand in Denmark, 23.2 percent in Portugal and 15.5 percent in Uruguay.

The two wind turbines in Rubesa, opposite the Wangdue Dzong together produce 600-kilowatts (KW) of energy, enough to light up more than 100 village homes. The country’s pilot wind power project generates about 1.21 million units of energy and earns about Nu 2.5M in revenue annually.

DRE has distributed about 2,000 solar home lighting units to rural households across the country and has identified two more sites for more wind turbine projects in the next Plan. The department’s preliminary study has found that the ridge above the Nyizergang Lhakhang could accommodate more than half a dozen of wind turbines.

Spreading and securing our energy needs is critically important. DRE’s initiatives are laudable. But more could be done.

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