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Changing scenario of power sector in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal sub-region: Part-III

07:44 PM Oct 19, 2023 IST | Dr Rupak Bhattacharjee
UpdateAt: 09:55 PM Oct 19, 2023 IST
changing scenario of power sector in bangladesh  bhutan  india and nepal sub region  part iii
Basochhu Hydroelectric Power Plant Bhutan.

In its bids to put Bangladesh on a low carbon track while ensuring energy security, the Ministry of Power, Energy and Energy Resources (MoPEMR) is reportedly finalising an Integrated Energy-Power Sector Master Plan (IEPSMP) to replace its PSMP. As per the data provided by the Power Cell division of MoPEMR, which has been entrusted the task of reforming the power sector, Bangladesh’s plan to produce 40% of its electricity from renewable by 2050 is divided into three phases: 2023-2030, 2030-2040, and 2040-2050. In the first phase, steps will be taken to reduce the proportion of electricity generated from natural gas to 35% from 75%--a target for 2020 set by the 2010 and 2016 PSMPs. The share of renewable energy in the country’s power mix will be enhanced from 2% to 10%.

The new target is a major departure from the 2010 PSMP, which planned for coal to provide 50% of Bangladesh’s power by 2030. Now, under the new plan, the share of coal will increase from 5% in 2020 to 10% by 2030. The Bangladesh government’s MoPEMR has adopted a new vision named “3E+S Approach” under which the focus of power generation will be shifted from the coast aspect of energy, which has been the country’s prime consideration for the last four decades, to energy security, economic efficiency, environment, and safety. Under the 2016 PSMP, the MoPEMR had a target of producing 33,250 MW of power by 2030 from imported coal, which constituted 35% of the total generation target.

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In its attempts to achieve this goal, the AL government undertook 13 coal-fired power projects that increased the use of coal in power production by 63 times compared with the 2010 PSMP. The climate scientists flagged concern that if the Bangladesh government were to produce power from all 13 plants, the country would experience an additional 115 million tons of carbon dioxide every year. Realising the impending environmental consequences, the AL government in June 2021 scrapped 10 coal-based power projects with a production capacity of 8,451 MW.

According to Bangladesh’s Minister of State for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources, Nasrul Hamid, the AL government has reviewed the PSMP for two reasons. In the first place, Bangladesh needs to keep the promise made at the CoP 26. Secondly, the country needs to undertake fuel diversification as the indigenous sources of fuels, including natural gas are depleting. Energy demand is growing rapidly in Bangladesh as it has augmented its industrial capacity especially in textiles and pharmaceuticals. Bangladesh is all set to make transition from the least developed countries (LDCs) group to developing country status by 2026. The Bangladesh government has also set a target of reaching developed country status by 2041.


Hydropower is the predominant source of energy in Bhutan. The 336 MW Chhukha Hydropower Project, the Himalayan nation’s first power project, was commissioned in 1986. It has been playing a key role in the country’s economy for the last several decades. In December 2022, Bhutan had a total power installed capacity of 2.335 MW, up from 1,489 MW in 2008. However, the present installed capacity is only 7% of the country’s total hydropower potential. Bhutan has an estimated hydropower potential of 30,000 MW. So far, 23,760 MW has been identified and assessed to be technically feasible.

Chhukha Hydropower Plant

In 2008, the Royal Government of Bhutan announced that the country would be able to generate 10,000 MW of electricity from its hydropower resources by 2020. Under a bilateral agreement with India, Bhutan decided to generate the said amount of electricity by developing four hydropower projects through joint collaboration. However, reports say only one; Mangdechhu Hydropower Project has been completed, and is currently operational. Bhutan could not implement the hydropower projects as per time schedule due to various geological, administrative and financial problems.

Bhutan is the only nation which is generating surplus power in the BBIN sub-region. Hydropower contributes 14% of GDP and 26% of government revenues. The Druk Green Power Corporation Limited (DGPC) is the government-owned utility company in charge of prime revenue earning hydropower sector. It may also be added that due to the lack of diversification in the power mix of the national grid, Bhutan has to import power from neighbouring India during lean season when the absence of sufficient water in the country’s river systems reduces hydropower generation.

Kurichhu Hydropower Plant

Given such persisting challenge, Bhutan has stepped up efforts to enhance its hydropower generation capacity in recent years. The country’s hydropower plants, which are currently operational, include: 64 MW Basochhu, 126 MW Dagachhu, 60 MW Kurichhu, 1,020 MW Tala, and 720 MW Mangdechhu. The country’s two major hydropower projects, namely, 1,200 MW Punatsangchhu I and 1.020 MW Punatsangchhu II are expected to be commissioned by July 2028 and December 2024, respectively. Once they become operational, the two Punatsangchhu power projects will be the biggest in terms of Bhutan’s installed power generation capacity.


Mangdechhu Hydropower Plant

According to reports, the 118 MW Nikachhu is the other ongoing hydropower project which is likely to be made functional by December 2023. The Kuri I and Nyera Amari with a capacity of 1.125 MW and 442 MW, respectively, are also under construction. Similarly, as per the Royal Government of Bhutan’s plans, three mini hydropower projects—Burgangchhu (54MW), Yungichhu (32MW), and Suchhu (18MW)—will be made operational by December 2024, March 2025, and July 2024, respectively. Plans are also underway to install other hydropower projects with a combined capacity of 261MW.

In its bids to address Bhutan’s persisting issue of seasonal variation in power generation, the DRE is focusing not only on energy diversification but also energy security, and climate mitigation and adaptation programmes. Bhutan’s Minister for Energy and Natural Resources Loknath Sharma recently noted that the country needs to integrate hydropower with renewable energy technologies. Bhutan’s Sustainable Hydropower Policy, 2020, also stresses on developing green hydrogen alongside hydropower. Reports say the country has a potential of 12 GW of solar energy and 760 MW of wind energy. The DRE intends to produce 700 MW of solar power, biomass equivalent to 3 MW and 50 MW of wind energy by 2032.

According to ADB’s December 2022 Technical Assistance Report titled “Kingdom of Bhutan: Promoting Energy Security and Transition Project”, the Bhutan government seeks to fast-track solar development up to 400 MW over the next three years, and the DGPC has been directed to take a lead in adding such capacity. In an effort in that direction, the ADB decided to finance Bhutan’s first utility-scale solar photovoltaic power plant (17.38 MW) at Sephu in central Bhutan’s Wangdue region in 2022, and wants to support subsequent similar ground-mounted solar power projects in other locations.

The ADB report has also noted that solar power will compensate for power deficits in the lean seasons and enhance hydropower export in the wet seasons when the additional solar power production can be used for domestic consumption. The report further says given comparative advantage of the complementarity between solar power and hydropower generation, solar power development can be promoted faster and diversified further from just ground-mounted solar photovoltaic power to floating and rooftop solar power generation.

Tala Hydropower Plant

As an alternative to hydropower, the DRE has already installed 600 MW wind energy plant at Rubesa Wangduephodrang. Bhutan has accomplished 99.9% of rural electrification target. Reports say a total of 14,179 improved biogas stoves have been distributed across the country. Bhutan has also installed solar water heating systems (SWHS) which can heat 30,000 litres of water per day, 1000 solar home lighting systems and a 180 KW solar water project. Moreover, the DRE has planned to install an 80 KW decentralised distribution solar project Aja Nye, and a 900 KW prosumer project. There are also plans to install 52 SWHS and undertake a solar electrification programme in the Lunane community.

Hydropower export is a key driver of Bhutan’s economy. During 2020-22, hydropower exports accounted for about 50% of the country’s total exports. However, hydropower generation is fully dependent on the availability of water resources, which can vary due to weather or climatic conditions. This implies that Bhutan’s high dependency on hydropower (99.70%) makes the country vulnerable to climate change effects, thereby raising energy security concerns. Given such vulnerability of the country’s power sector, the Bhutan government seeks to diversify sources to enhance energy independence.

Bhutan’s Sustainable Hydropower Policy, 2021, aims to enhance energy security and develop value chains based on alternative key energy. The DRE is currently engaged in reviewing Bhutan’s alternative renewable energy policy of 2013. The drafting of guidelines and regulations for creating an enabling environment for solar energy is reportedly in process. The DRE is also formulating a renewable energy master plan, a renewable energy resource assessment report, and a national energy efficiency and conservation policy. As per recent reports, they are expected to be released soon.