Unchanged cylinders outside the Parliament on 21st June (photo courtesy: Pelldrub)

Parliament passes motion to substitute LPG but MPs hesitate to change their own gas cylinders

Parliament passes motions to substitute LPG import by promoting the use of electrical home appliances and to improve and enhance the availability of subsidized rural electricity

The National Assembly (NA) discussed the need for a policy to promote and use clean energy to replace Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) as fuel for cooking. This motion was passed.

Member of Parliament (MP) of Bardo-Trong, Gyambo Tshering, submitted a motion in NA for import substitution and enhancing energy self-reliance by encouraging the use of electrical home appliances, such as stoves and ovens, for cooking and baking instead of LPG.

He said there should be a waiver of 20 percent customs duty and 5 percent sales tax on spare parts for electrical appliances. MP Gyambo Tshering also said there should also be subsidized rural electricity given to the people.

Economic Affairs Minister, Lok Nath Sharma, said the ministry has been promoting clean electric energy and conservation through the social media. He said the ministry has done comprehensive studies on the efficiency, cost benefit analysis, user friendliness of electric appliances at homes. He said the results show electric cook stoves are a better choice than LPG stoves.

Lyonpo Lok Nath Sharma said for a family of four, the total energy consumption by the electric stove in a month is 42.3 units and at an average price of Nu 2.88 per unit, it costs about Nu 122 per month.

Whereas for LPG usage, the monthly cost is about Nu 264, at the subsidized rate of Nu 530 per filled cylinder. The yearly energy consumption cost is more than double, the minister added.

He said in his hometown, they use an induction cooker, rice cooker and water boiler and a biogas stove. “It is much cleaner and convenient,” Lyonpo Lok Nath Sharma added.

The ministry is also working with the Ministry of Finance on the Bhutan Trade Classification (BTC) code (8516.60.00) where spare parts are levied 10 percent duty and 5 percent sales tax.

The ministry will take up with MoF for exemption of taxes on spare parts of select cook stoves.

The cost of the electric stoves varies from Nu 5,000 to Nu 13,000 depending upon single burner or double burners. Affordability of these electric appliances would be an issue, and hence, the ministry worked out that some level of one time capital subsidy would be required for each family.

Minister said the best short-term measure, while policies are being developed, is to immediately shift to green-gas (non subsidized LPG) or electric cook stoves by everyone, including Members of Parliament, who can afford it.

“The most recent record shows most of the MPs have not switched to green-gas,” said Lyonpo, and even offered to bring the green-gas to National Assembly parking lot so MPs can make the switch by bringing their own cylinders on Friday.

However, on Friday though the gas cylinders was brought to the Parliament parking there were not many takers.

The government has adopted the move to alternative renewable energy to enhance national energy security. Accordingly, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF), as of May, have rolled out 5,661 household-level biogas plants in the country that are primarily used for cooking purposes.

The second motion submitted by Bardo-Trong MP was to improve and enhance the availability of subsidized rural electricity. This motion was also passed.

Economic Affairs Minister said the revenue generated from the royalty energy is Nu 2.271 billion (bn) currently. Nu 1.773 bn is paid by the government as subsidy to the BPC. This leaves Nu 498 million (mn) to support other initiative of the government. Lyonpo said assuming all the households in the country shift to infrared cook stoves from LPG, there will be additional electricity consumption of around 59.6 million units. A net requirement of additional subsidy of Nu 424 mn. Therefore, net saving from the sale of royalty will be negligible. Lyonpo Lok Nath Sharma said this can also have impact on the reliability and supply as the load during winter can increase.

He said that in 2018, Bhutan imported 82.964 million units of electricity from India and this figure will increase if there is huge shift in electricity consumption and usage.

There are around 108,377 households in rural areas and 49,970 households in urban areas. Considering all micro enterprises and public institutions there are around 192,859 consumers in total in the country. Although rural consumers are allocated 100 units of free energy, it is estimated that people use, on average, about 60 units. If a family switches over to electric cook stove, then the total energy consumed would be 102.3 units, which is marginally more than 100 units free electricity. This marginal increase must be possible to be borne by the consumers.

Considering the importance of grid-electricity to rural areas to improve their livelihoods, a total of 1,429 households were electrified through solar home systems, and assessed under JICA loan.

To improve the productivity of energy consuming sectors and to streamline the energy efficiency measures as integral part of the developmental activities, the ministry has developed National Energy Efficiency and Conservation Policy (EE&C).

The policy would address the specific measures for building, appliances, industry and transport sectors, which are the most energy consuming sectors in the country. Based on the policy objectives, sectors specific strategies and action plans are to be drawn up.

Meanwhile, Lyonpo Lok Nath Sharma said that the subsidized LPG would go more to rural areas and non-subsidized LPG is to remain in the urban area. The ministry will also be submitting a proposal to the Cabinet, probably to do away with subsidized LPG from the thromdes or even the richer dzongkhags.

Lyonpo also said dependence on LPG in rural areas will ease once electric or induction stove and biogas are given importance. He said a combination of all other energy must be promoted along with electricity.

“People in rural areas or in urban areas do not want to switch to electric cookers because there can be sudden power cuts. This is what we need to address and to make it reliable,” said the Economics Minister.

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