Ensuring affordable, reliable and sustainable energy for all

The event was graced by the Minister for Economic Affairs, Executive Secretary of UNESCAP, and UN Resident Coordinator, Bhutan in a hybrid mode

SONAM PENJOR

Thimphu

The Department of Renewable Energy, Ministry of Economic Affairs in collaboration with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) launched the Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG 7) Roadmap for Bhutan on 30 May.

The SDG 7 Roadmap provides a pathway for Bhutan to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”. The Roadmap also presents a range of opportunities to achieve the Goal 7 targets while improving energy security, maintaining or deepening Bhutan’s carbon-negative status, and improving the health of its citizens through reduced indoor air pollution.

The event was graced by the Minister for Economic Affairs, Executive Secretary of UNESCAP, and UN Resident Coordinator, Bhutan in a hybrid mode.

Energy Transition Pathways for the 2030 Agenda SDG 7 Roadmap for Bhutan, which was published by United Nations, states that transitioning the energy sector to achieve the 2030 agenda for sustainable development and the objectives of the Paris Agreement presents a complex and difficult task for policymakers.

“It needs to ensure sustained economic growth as well as respond to increasing energy demand, reduce emissions, and consider and capitalize on the interlinkages between SDG 7 and other SDGs,” it states.

To address this challenge, ESCAP has developed the National Expert SDG Tool for EnergyPlanning (NEXSTEP). This tool enables policymakers to make informed policy decisions to support the achievement of the SDG 7 targets as well as nationally determined contributions (NDCs).

The initiative has been undertaken in response to the Ministerial Declaration of the Second Asian and Pacific EnergyForum in April 2018, Bangkok, and Commission Resolution 74/9, which endorsed its outcome.

NEXSTEP also garnered the support of the Committee on Energy in its second session, with recommendations to expand the number of countries being supported by this tool.

The objective of this SDG 7 roadmap2 is to assist the Royal Government of Bhutan in developing enabling policy measures to achieve the SDG 7 targets. This roadmap contains a matrix of technological options and enabling policy measures for the government to consider.

It presents several scenarios that have been developed using national data, and which consider existing energy policies and strategies as well as reflect on other development plans.

These scenarios are expected to enable the government to make an informed decision to develop and implement a set of policies to achieve SDG 7 by 2030, together with the NDC.

The scope of the NEXSTEP analysis is limited to only the emissions and de-carbonization opportunities relevant to the energy and the IPPU sectors.

Bhutan, according to the roadmap, has made significant progress in increasing access to electricity in recent years and achieved an almost 100 percent access rate in 2018.

However, it says, more can be done to close the clean cooking gap, as around a quarter of the population was still relying on polluting cooking fuels and technology in 2017.

“Energy efficiency improvement needs to be boosted across all sectors in order to achieve a three percent annual improvement, reducing energy intensity from 3.75 mega-joules per United States dollar (MJ/US$) to 2.54 MJ/US$ by 2030,” the roadmap states.

The roadmap also states that Bhutan is endowed with huge hydropower potential, and had an installed capacity of 1,614 MW in 2018 (an additional 720 MW Mangdechhu hydropower plant was installed in 2019), which contributes significantly to the nation’s GDP through cross-border power trade.

It also states that bio-mass makes up a substantial amount of the energy demand, mainly for heating and cooking purposes in the residential and commercial sectors.

“Imported fuels, however, still make up around one-third of the nation’s primary energy supply, with 60 percent of the imported fuel used to power the transport sector,” it states.

While this energy dependency may be a potential threat to Bhutan, the roadmap states that the reliance on imported fuel can be reduced through the adoption of electric vehicles, allowing for the utilization of locally produced renewable energy.

“This is also imperative in energy demand reduction. Being the world’s only carbon-negative country, Bhutan is well-positioned to maintain its commitment towards the Paris Agreement.

“At the same time, it has ample opportunities to achieve more decarbonizing its energy system. The energy efficiency and GHG emission reduction measures are further examined in this roadmap,” the report states.

Meanwhile, the roadmaps have set out five policy recommendations to help Bhutan achieve the SDG 7 targets as well as realize substantial de-carbonization across the economy.

The recommendations includes access to clean cooking technologies; improvement of indoor space heating technologies; transport electrification for energy demand reduction, maximizing renewable energyutilization and reducing GHG emissions.

Further, it recommends that a green building code should be made mandatory and energy-efficient cooking should be encouraged for all new commercial and institutional buildings in addition to de-carbonization of the industrial sector to reduce energy-related emissions.