Electric Lessons

May 21, 2012 (LBO) – Hearing I was off to the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan, a friend wrote ‘come back and tell us what you learned.’ This question was on my mind when I heard that Sri Lanka’s Minister of Power and Energy was in Bhutan at the same time.

What had we each learned from our separate visits, I wondered. Did our learnings differ?

Electric power

Bhutan is the only power-surplus country in South Asia. And it has so far only exploited six percent of its hydro potential (23,760 MW), with mega projects (just one will produce more than 1,000 MW) coming on stream soon. Bhutan has a small population the size of Colombo, 0.7 million people. It cannot consume all this electricity; it is for export.

Except in winter, when the flow lessens and the run-of-the-river plants cannot produce at full capacity, 80 percent of the electricity is exported to India under long-term contracts. Electricity is the highest export earner for Bhutan today, thanks to good and timely decisions by the government, something that cannot be said about the power sector in Sri Lanka.

Should one consider the Sri Lankan situation to befundamentally different since our hydro is almost tapped out? Or should one think about the lessons that could