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Energy, Sustainability & Resilience: Lessons From Bhutan & Bangladesh

Energy, Sustainability & Resilience: Lessons From Bhutan & Bangladesh

Robert C. Wolcott

While hiking this past November to Chumphu Nye Temple in Bhutan, a kingdom of 780,000 perched between China and India, I noted power lines all along our three-mile walk. Nature in all directions — and wires on 20th century metal towers.

Our host, Dorji Wangchuk, former press secretary to the King of Bhutan, explained that the power lines serve one purpose: to provide electricity to the temple complex to which we were hiking. Imagine the cost to build miles of electrical transmission lines to serve 30 people. There had to be a better, more efficient way, I thought.

Fortunately, Bhutan already has a solution underway. They’re building small-scale hydroelectric generation capacity–an example of a Distributed Energy Resource (DER)—near the temple (and out of view). Upon completion, the temple will be able to operate independent of the country’s electricity grid. Digital control systems will send excess power back to the grid.

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Compare traditional large-scale, centralized power generation requiring extensive grid transmission and distribution capacity compared to small-scale power generation nodes operating close to demand. DERs benefit from effective grid networks and can contribute back to the grid, but they can also provide electricity locally (if allowed by local regulation), making each node more resilient to shocks from global energy markets or geopolitics.

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