Skip to content

Microhydro Power Plant in Chendebji, Bhutan

Key results

  • Provides electricity to isolated mountain communities, previously without reliable power, substantially improving their livelihood through improved sanitation services, domestic cooking, heating, and lighting
  • First Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) project registered for Bhutan and sixth in the world, with 474 certified emission reduction (CER) credits issued
  • Pioneering community-based management model that was used by the Bhutanese Department of Energy as a pilot scheme for future microhydro projects
  • Approximately 500 tonnes of CO2 emissions avoided per year, based on the displacement of other available energy sources such as diesel power generation, kerosene lighting, and fuel wood
  • At commissioning, provided electricity to 50 households, 5 institutional buildings (including a dispensary), and a temple. Since then, the government has connected additional households, schools, government offices and businesses in two adjacent villages

In 2005, we completed a 70 kW run-of-the-river microhydro power plant to electrify Chendebji, a remote village in the heart of Bhutan. The plant is located on the Lamchela Chu River, close to 2,500 metres above sea level, and provides much-needed low-cost and low-emissions electricity to villagers for the first time. We commissioned the plant in 2005 and officially transferred the facilities to the Royal Bhutan Government’s Department of Energy (DOE).

A central part of the project was the development of a community-based management model that was a pilot for the DOE to develop future off-grid microhydro facilities in remote areas of the country. Owned by the DOE but managed by the Chendebji Microhydropower Management Committee, this rural electrification scheme involved the community in the project planning and implementation. Local geography makes the task of electrifying remote communities in the Himalayas extremely challenging. This model is an innovative way for villagers to access clean, modern electricity.

At commissioning, 50 households in the village were connected to the Chendebji power station. Access to electricity contributed to the development of small enterprises, including a new guesthouse, store and restaurant built near the village. The government has since connected two adjacent villages (Nyala and Drangla) to the power station. To further reduce the use of wood for cooking and heating, every household was given an electric rice cooker and water boiler.

At the request of the villagers, excess energy produced by the plant was used to heat water which was made available at a free communal bathing and washing facility.

Access to clean and modern electricity for the first time brought other major improvements to the lives of the villagers, including:

  • More time available for studies and cottage industry activities (such as weaving) after sunset from 30 minutes (total burning time of a kerosene lamp) to 1.5 hours or more
  • Better health conditions by reducing indoor smoke from firewood and kerosene
  • Less time spent collecting firewood, so more time could be used for agriculture and other income-generating activities
  • Access to new electricity-powered learning devices, including televisions and computers, to facilitate education for children and adults even during evening hours
  • Newly electrified village dispensary, enabling use of vaccine refrigerators, telemedicine, and other electric medical devices

The microhydro power plant was officially registered as a Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) project under the terms of the Kyoto Protocol in May 2005. Not only was this the first CDM-registered project for GSEP, it was also the first CDM project for Bhutan and the sixth to be registered in the world. Full information on its CDM registration can be found in the UNFCCC’s website. The project’s first certified emission reduction credits (CER) were validated in January 2007 and 474 CERs were issued in April 2007. These CERs were shared between the government of Bhutan and GSEP. The UNFCCC also published a summary of the project and its benefits.

"Schoolchildren used to study for just 30 minutes since lighting with kerosene for prolonged periods of time used to cost a lot. The free hot water service is appreciated especially during the cold winter months."


  • Kansai Electric Power
  • Hydro-Québec
  • Électricité de France (EDF)
  • American Electric Power (AEP)
  • National Environment Commission Secretariat, Royal Government of Bhutan
  • Department of Energy of the Ministry of Trade & Industry, Royal Government of Bhutan
  • Ministry of Finance, Royal Government of Bhutan
  • Trongsa Dzongkhag (district administration)
  • Chendebji local community and residents


Please note that the Global Sustainable Electricity Partnership will cease operations as of the end of June 2024.