Bhutan: Transforming the Environment One LEAF at a Time

Bhutan_sustainable_leaf_mariordo59While world governments debate the best ways to reach the 2020 advisory of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Kingdom of Bhutan has quietly taken another strong step toward environmental sustainability.

Last week, the Prime Minister of Bhutan, Tshering Tobgay, met with Nissan’s Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn to hammer out a deal in which Nissan would supply all-electric LEAF cars to Bhutan to replace its conventional government and taxi fleets. The Royal Government of Bhutan wants to convert the nation’s capital, Thimphu, to a green-powered city. Transitioning its conventional vehicle fleet to EVs would bring it closer to that goal.

As part of the new agreement, Nissan will be supplying demonstration cars that can be used to promote green energy to the public and establishing quick-charge stations across the country to be used by Bhutan’s new fleet. As a sign of goodwill, it has also presented the government with two complimentary cars that it can try out on Bhutan’s mountainous roads and city streets.

The 2014 LEAF currently runs about $29,000, which would be prohibitive for the average Bhutanese family. The government therefore is hoping to find ways to create subsidies that would encourage Bhutanese to transition to all-electric vehicles. Some of the options that are being considered are tax reductions or exemptions on EVs, promoting a carbon credit exchange system, and possible subsidies from internationally based agencies.

“If we can get international agencies and individuals to support us to subsidize one-third of that price, it becomes very affordable,” Prime Minister Tobgay said in a joint press conference at the time of the meeting.

Bhutan_Sustainable_Leaf_Thimphu_juandazengHe admitted that a crucial part of Bhutan’s sustainability goals is to find a way to convert to zero-emission transportation.

“We don’t want to rely on and we don’t want to buy fossil fuel,” Tobgay said.

Bhutan’s ecology gives it a substantial advantage when it comes to hydroelectric power. Although it is mountainous and landlocked, its four hydroelectric plants, which are powered by Bhutan’s river system, supply enough megawatts to sell power to India. One of its greatest obstacles to sustainability, however, remains its dependence on fossil fuels for transport, for which it must import fossil fuels from neighboring countries.

Ghosn admitted that this agreement was a “very initial step,” but one that would afford both parties significant advantages in the future. Nissan has so far managed to corner 45 percent of the world’s EV market, and has done so largely by appealing to the public-sector market. It currently has more than 100 agreements with city, federal and state governments around the world. This new agreement would give it a notable advantage in becoming the main supplier of vehicles in the world’s first sustainably run nation.

Nissan LEAF: Xiaojun Deng

Bhutan: Juan Dazeng

Jan Lee

Jan Lee is a former news editor and award-winning editorial writer whose non-fiction and fiction have been published in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, the U.K. and Australia. Her articles and posts can be found on TriplePundit, JustMeans, and her blog, The Multicultural Jew, as well as other publications. She currently splits her residence between the city of Vancouver, British Columbia and the rural farmlands of Idaho.

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