Monday, August 31, 2015

Our Rivers of Doom III

For a long time, there were certain anomalies surrounding the hydropower projects in Bhutan that baffled me.  It just simply did not make sense. In particular, the following three had me completely perplexed:

1.    The need for Bhutan to import electricity from India during the winter months;

2.    While claiming that we are the cheapest producer of electricity in whole of Asia, why LPG
       and kerosene continues to be the preferred fuel for cooking and heating; and

3.    Why we cannot build one hydropower plant, strictly for internal consumption - sans Indian financing,
        sans WAPCOS, sans Jaypee, sans L&T, sans Gammon, sans HCC sans ……..

THE STRANGE CASE OF EXPORT & RE-IMPORT
Year after year, every winter, we have been hearing of the need for import of electricity from India. The reason offered for such an absurdity is that during the winter months the water level in the rivers drop so drastically that the electricity generation falls dramatically. OK, fair enough - we can accept that the water flow reduces during the winter months. However, what I do not understand is this: is the fall in the generation so low that it is not enough to supply the country’s miniscule requirement of electricity? I mean how is it possible that the combined generation from Chukha and Tala plants is not enough to meet our domestic requirement?

What really is the truth? Take a guess!

THE THRONG AT THE GAS STATION
It is pathetic and wasteful to have to queue up at the gas station for our quota of LPG and kerosene. And the wait is painfully long and arduous. If you ask the Department and the Ministry concerned, they are quick to tell you that there are thousands of consumers to cater to. What they don't tell us is: why is there a need to import these? Aren’t we supposed to be the cheapest producer of electricity? Why isn’t the government making it affordable for the people of Bhutan to use electricity, instead of spending precious foreign currency to import LPG and kerosene? The answer is simple: true to character, we have not been thinking! We are just too blas√©!






We have not worked towards making electricity affordable for the common man. I am not suggesting subsidy - far from it. I am suggesting that, contrary to the bogus claim, our cost of production of electricity is WAY TOO HIGH!! As a result, the unit price of electricity to the Bhutanese consumers is so high that we prefer to queue up at the gas station for LPG and kerosene - because they are cheaper by far, compared to our electricity.

BUILD OUR OWN HYDRO-POWER PLANT
In my mind, the answer to our problems should be simple: we should build our own hydro-power plant - strictly for internal consumption - sans Indian financing, sans WAPCOS, sans Jaypee, sans L&T, sans …….. We do not seek construction technology and financing from India. We do it all ourselves.

Despite our claim that we are the cheapest producer of electricity, I believe that our unit cost of production is atleast FOUR TIMES HIGHER THAN WHAT IT SHOULD BE! The moment we reduce the cost of production, by removing components such as cost escalation through poor quality DPR, delayed project completion, wrong choice of technology, deliberate over design, poor quality of construction, corruption, kickbacks etc. etc. .... our cost of production of electricity will drop to levels that will make it affordable for the Bhutanese to use our electricity - for cooking and heating.

The Royal Government of Bhutan should seriously consider this - it cannot be an impossible task to do just one lousy hydro-power project to meet our internal demand! Self-sufficiency in fuel is a vital security concern.

CONTINUED DEPENDENCY ON LPG AND KEROSENE CAN POSE A SERIOUS THREAT TO OUR SOVEREIGNTY!

3 comments:

  1. Cost control during construction and getting back to reality is the only solution to have the cost of electricity affordable and reduce imports of petroleum products such as LPG etc.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Cost construction is escalating having to feed deep pockets and gurus who know how to milk from such mega projects.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is what my Finnish friend told me! He was perplexed that when I I told him we use LPG imported from India for cooking.

    ReplyDelete