Bhutan’s quest for alternative energy

Solar-in-BhutanDeependra Pourel, the winner of a data challenge offered to INASP-supported researchers to encourage collaboration between journalists and academics to produce data-driven stories, writes:

Thirty years ago, Bhutan, a country of around 780,000 people, saw an opportunity to move away from an agriculture-based economy by harnessing fast-flowing rivers and mountainous gullies to produce valuable hydroelectricity.

Mainly funded through grants and loans from India, five major hydroplants around Bhutan now produce up to 1,500 megawatts (MW) of electricity, about five per cent of its potential hydroelectric capacity of 30,000MW. As part of an ongoing cultural and economic relationship between the two countries, during 2015-16, Bhutan will receive just under US$100 million from India. In return, Bhutan exports roughly 75 per cent of its hydroelectricity to its energy-hungry neighbour.

This large supply of clean energy encouraged the two countries to commit in 2009 to producing 10,000MW of hydroelectricity in Bhutan by 2020, including plans to build an extra 12 plants. The first, Dagachhu in Dagana, began operating in 2015.

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