New hydropower policy emphasizes on developing reservoir and pumped storage

The revised policy has been recently approved by the government.

The selection of hydropower projects priority will be accorded to develop reservoir and pumped storage schemes and hybrid technologies to enhance domestic energy security, according to the Sustainable Hydropower Development Policy 2021.

The identification and selection of hydropower projects for development will be done in accordance with the Power System Master Plan (PSMP) and the Hydropower Development Strategy Report.

According to the policy, the establishment of cascaded water storage schemes or reservoir, both upstream and downstream of the existing and planned hydropower projects, will be considered to address the water and energy security concerns.  

The Ministry of Economic Affairs launched the policy last week and the revised policy has been recently approved by the government.

The previous policy was approved in 2008 with the objective to accelerate hydropower development and to diversify investments in the sector. However, hydropower being a strategic national resource, and from the lessons learnt with its development, there was reportedly a need to consider changes in national circumstances, priorities and evolving aspirations of the people.

The ministry states that the domestic demand for electricity is likely to continue to grow at a rate that may soon exceed firm generation capacity. While development of hydropower should keep pace with the increase in domestic demand, a key challenge facing the sector is the low proportion of firm power vis-à-vis the installed capacity. Therefore, strategic interventions are necessary to enhance energy security through innovative mechanisms such as promotion of reservoir or pump storage schemes, and integrate hydropower with other emerging renewable technologies and resources.

Economic Affairs Minister Loknath Sharma said that the previous policy served its purposes. “So far the country is able to generate 2,326MW of power.”

However, the Lyonpo mentioned that though the capacity is very high for country like ours, still it is not sufficient for domestic consumption during the lean seasons.

“The policy also focus on how do we diversify the source of energy, how do we attain energy mix and secure energy security,” the Lyonpo said.

Lyonpo said with the lessons learnt with it development, there was a need to consider changes in national circumstances, priorities and evolving aspirations of the people.

The policy states that the government will encourage, where techno-economically feasible, an integrated development of hydropower projects with multipurpose use of water for drinking, irrigation, flood control and recreational purposes.

There is also an opportunity to pursue energy storage by-products such as hydrogen fuel, green ammonia and other innovative technologies to add value on to the clean energy, besides providing reliable and competitively priced electricity to the industries.

The revised policy, therefore, endeavors to address the need for enhancing the energy security for the country and develop value chains based on available clean energy. To this end, the government will make concerted efforts to reap the benefits of the entire value chain of the hydropower resource in the future.

Furthermore, the climate change impact in Bhutan is already visible by way of its melting glaciers, which is a major source of its abundant hydropower. According to the ministry, there is a need to step up collective efforts towards smart and integrated management of watersheds and catchment area protection to make hydropower development a climate resilient undertaking in times to come.

The policy also states that the government will prepare Green Hydrogen Roadmap for development of hydrogen economy, adoption of suitable technologies and related infrastructure and introducing regulatory frameworks.

This policy is expected to ensure sustainable development of our strategic resource and benefit all the people of Bhutan by enhancing peace, prosperity and happiness in the country, according to the ministry.

Dechen Dolkar from Thimphu