May 9, 2022
When you ask residents of any remote Bhutanese village what their most pressing needs are, they invariably say, “road access and electricity.” However, while some remote villages will never get drivable roads due to the difficult terrain and their remoteness, these villages’ energy needs can be addressed. Bhutan is endowed with fast-flowing rivers, high solar irradiation, and reliable valley wind systems—natural resources suitable for energy generation.
The current national rural electrification rate stands at 99.97%, an incredible number, yet some communities in far-flung rural pockets still are not connected with grid electricity. This is because of the remoteness of the sites or because their locations are within national protected areas and biological corridors limited by environmental and forestry legal regulations. We are now taking power to the remaining 0.03% of the Bhutanese communities.
Aja Ney is a community of hermits and religious retreatants secluded at the sacred pilgrimage site, which is located inside Bumdeling Wildlife Sanctuary. Along with our partners in the Department of Renewable Energy and Bhutan Ecological Society, we are bringing power to Aja Ney in Mongar, eastern Bhutan, by harnessing solar energy. This project is well underway and we expect to complete it later this year.
The Bhutan Foundation is also seeking funds to establish a 50 kW mini-hydel and two 15 kW solar PV units in the mountain communities of Lunana, the setting for Bhutan’s Oscar-nominated film Lunana: a Yak in the Classroom. Lunana is indeed the last frontier in the challenge to take electricity to Bhutan’s most remote communities. It sits at the foot of receding glaciers, a poster child for communities bearing the brunt of climate change. Through this project, we are also exploring ways to enhance the living conditions of the residents while also identifying additional livelihood options. We are partnering with the Royal Government’s Department of Renewable Energy and the local government in Lunana in this endeavor.