The photo is sourced from phys.org
Small HPP projects are designed to alleviate energy shortage compelling Bhutan to import electricity during winters. The deficit is partially driven by a rising domestic electricity demand following the expansion of the local grid infrastructure. According to the World Bank, the nationwide proportion of the grid-connected households in Bhutan increased from 73% in 2010 to 100% in 2020. However, in rural areas, where just under 60% of the country’s population lives, this increase was even more impressive, i.e. from 59% to 100%.
However, the demand growth has outpaced commissioning of power generation capacity. Bhutan’s peak season power demand is 450 MW, while local HPPs are able to provide not more than 400 MW, according to the DGPC data. The situation is getting more complicated by periodic decommissioning of the available hydroelectric units. For example, last winter there was suspended, due to scheduled repairs, the Tala HPP accounting for more than 40% of the capacity of all hydropower plants operating in the country. Therefore, Bhutan is going to build several new HPPs in the coming years. In addition to the three small plants in the regions of Haa, Lhuntse and Zhemgang, DGPC is considering the construction of four more HPPs, the sites for which will be developed in the border provinces of Samdrup Jongkhar (85 MW), Trashigang (two 130 MW units), Samtse (two 26 MW units) and Thimphu (20 MW).
The DGPC projects will contribute to development of the small HPP segment gaining popularity amid a global growth in demand for low-carbon energy. In this connection, last year the European Investment Bank announced provision of 49 million euros for construction of 13 dams and 12 small HPPs in the Italian province of Tuscany. RusHydro, in its turn, is engaged in construction of small HPPs at the North Caucasus with its combination of energy shortages and favourable natural conditions. In 2020, the Company commissioned 5.25 MW Barsuchkovskaya HPP, 10 MW Verkhnebalkarskaya HPP and 5.6 MW Ust-Dzhegutiinskaya HPP in the region. The construction of two more power plants – Krasnogorsk HPP-1 and HPP-2 – located in Karachay-Cherkessia, will be completed before the end of 2022.