Electricity import in winter to almost double

Hydropower revenue sees 14% decrease in 2023

Power export revenue declines in 2023 due to soaring domestic consumption

Bhutan generated a total revenue of Nu 23,827.79 million (M) from both exports and domestic consumption of hydropower last year, marking a decrease of almost 14% compared to the revenue of Nu 22,663M in 2022.

The country exported a total worth of Nu 17,351M, which saw a significant 26% dip from the previous year’s value of Nu 2,276M in 2022.

Domestic consumption, on the other hand, saw an increase in 2023, with power consumption totaling Nu 6,476.2M. This marked a significant rise of almost Nu 2.1M compared to 2022’s domestic consumption figure of 4406.35M.

The decline in export sales can be attributed to Bhutan’s increasing dependency on domestic power consumption during the winter months. In previous years, the country was able to export more power than it consumed domestically. However, in 2023, the trend has shifted, with a drastic increase in domestic demand. This shift has led to more power being used for domestic sales. As the domestic tariff is lower than the export tariff, it has impacted the overall revenue.

Among the contributing factors to the decrease in export sales, the export of power from five major hydropower plants witnessed a decline of 23.4%. This decline was reflected in the generated revenue from these plants, with exports totaling Nu 23,827.27M in 2023, down from Nu 27,079.29M in the previous year.

Meanwhile, in 2023, the highest revenue was generated by the 720 megawatt (MW) Mangdechhu HEP at Nu 125M, followed by the 1020 MW Tala Hydropower projects at Nu 540M,  and Nu 350M generated from 336 MW Chhukha HEP.

Further, the 126 MW Dagachhu generated a revenue of Nu 1.22B, followed by 64 MW Basochhu at Nu 602.74M, and 60 MW Kurichhu at Nu 532.31M.

Despite the drop in export sales, the overall production of electricity experienced a rise in 2023 (10,052.1 million units (MU)), with an increase of over 1,486MU compared to the previous year’s production of 9,051MU.

The highest unit of electricity was produced from Tala HEP with 4,4479.51MU, followed by Mangdechhu HEP with 3,145.045MU, Chukhha HEP with 1,774.04MU, Dagachhu with 441.58MU, Kurichu with 385.85MU, and Basochhu with the least production, recording 311.52MU.

The struggle to meet its power requirements during the winter months has led the country to import electricity from India. In 2023, Bhutan imported 367.17MU of electricity amounting to Nu 1.75B, an increase from the previous years.

The Druk Green Power Corporation (DGPC) imported electricity for a period of only three months. However, DGPC, due to the rise in demand, imported electricity for four months in 2022. However, during 2023–2024, the DGPC found it necessary to import energy for five months.

The power tariff for export to India stands at Nu 2.55 per unit for Chhukha HEP with effect from January 2017, Nu 2.23 per unit for Kurichhu and Tala HEPs, and Nu 3.399 per unit for Dagachhu HEP.

On the other hand, domestic sales are charged at Nu 0.13 per unit for royalty energy and Nu 1.20 for the rest, mainly for industrial use from Kurichhu Hydropower.

The increase in domestic consumption of power by over Nu 6.08B has led to a fall in the export of electricity by 26% in 2023. The year has seen the highest ever domestic consumption, with a total of Nu 25.115B worth of power generated compared to Nu 28B in 2022.

By Nidup Lhamo, Thimphu