Hurdles stand in the way of 100% electricity coverage by 2020: MoEA minister

The country’s topography and power transmission lines falling across protected areas in some places are hurdles in achieving the 100% electricity coverage by 2020, said Economic Affairs Minister Loknath Sharma during the question and answer session on December 9.
Gasa’s National Council member, Dorji Khandu quizzed the minister on whether it would be able to fulfil the Bhutan 2020 vision of 100% electricity coverage for all by 2020, in the 10th FYP.
Currently, about 99.97% of the households in the country have access to electricity, however, around 164 households including 39 villages in 21 gewogs under 17 Dzongkhags are still off-grid.
Moreover, Dorji Khandu said the remaining 0.03% with no access to electricity constitutes 300 households in Lunana gewog and asked the government on the proposed mini-hydro project in the river at Toenche, Lunana that would benefit more than 200 households in the gewog.
“The project would not only control rural to urban migration but also benefit management of watershed as villagers in Lunana use 524T of firewood annually,” he added.
Additionally, Gasa NC, Dorji Khandu said the government had allocated Nu 7mn in the financial year 2019-20 to conduct the Detailed Project Report of the mini-hydropower project in Lunana with the Department of Renewable Energy (DRE) under the economic affairs ministry to undertake feasibility study and development of power supply to Lunana gewog in 12FYP.
NC member Dorji Khandu said DRE assigned Druk Green Power Corporation to prepare a Detailed Project Report of the mini-hydro power project in Lunana as a deposit work within the financial year 2019-20.
Moreover, a multidisciplinary team from DGPC and DRE was deputed to Lunana for the site survey and for the investigation from September 9 to October 13 last year, he added.
“Providing a reliable power supply in Lunana was one of the major pledges of the current government and it should be the top priority in the 12th FYP,” said Dorji Khandu.
Lyonpo said 99.97% of the households are provided with electricity currently, however, the households under off-grid are provided with photovoltaic systems. He assured that 1,691 households would be provided electricity in the 12th FYP.
Additionally, Lyonpo said the government has allocated an estimated budget of Nu 662.93mn for the mini-hydro project in Lunana with a generation capacity of 415KW.
Moreover, he said the government is in discussion with the Government of the Republic of Korea for the fund. If in case of no foreign donor, Lyonpo said the project has to be carried out as planned with domestic funding.
“The project would commence from 2021 and would complete by the first quarter of 2023,” he said adding that the project is going to be seasonal by nature and will take about two years given the geographical location of the place.
Lyonpo also responded to questions raised by NC members on the construction of transmission towers and lines for the export of electricity to India that is causing inconvenience to the people living in Wangduephodrang, Dagana, and Tsirang Dzongkhags.
He said those who are grieved have to be compensated and ministry is in discussion to find a solution.
Moreover, on the possibility of getting transmission lines to Lunana Gewog from Mangde Chhu and Kuri Chhu, Lyonpo said, firstly, it would be expensive and secondly, the transmission towers and lines have to be stretched through 97km of Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Park.

Thukten Zangpo from Thimphu