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Dechen Dema Q&A – Contributing to Bhutan’s energy sector

Posted: 5 June 2022

Bhutan, Environment, Impact,

“Only One Earth” is the theme of this year’s World Environment Day, highlighting the need to live sustainably in harmony with nature, and to shift to a greener lifestyle through policies and individual choices. “Only One Earth” was originally the motto for the 1972 Stockholm Conference.

In Bhutan, Australia Awards alum Dechen Dema is living out this theme through her role as a Deputy Executive Engineer at the Energy Efficiency Division, Department of Renewable Energy under the Ministry of Economic Affairs in Bhutan.

Dechen completed a Master of Renewable and Sustainable Energy at the Murdoch University in 2021 with the support of an Australia Awards Scholarship. Since then, she has worked at the Department as the focal person for creating awareness on renewable energy and energy efficiency. Dechen conducted the Department’s first ever webinar series, titled ‘Energy Week’, to allow participants to share expertise and experiences in renewable energy and energy efficiency. She leads the Department’s coordination with donor agencies to review energy efficiency in Bhutan’s appliance sector and the development a framework for standards.

At the national level, Dechen has been involved in developing Bhutan’s roadmap to implement Sustainable Development Goal 7 and develop clean, renewable and affordable energy by 2030, which was launched on 30 May 2022. Dechen is now part of a group working on updating the Bhutan Energy Data Directory 2015. She is also supporting in-house human resource capacity building in project management and evaluation related to renewable energy and energy efficiency projects of the Department of Renewable Energy.

In anticipation of World Environment Day 2022, we met with Dechen to discuss her motivation for following a career in renewable and sustainable energy and how she is making a difference through her work.

Tell us what got you passionate about renewable and sustainable energy?

We are already aware of all the grave impacts of climate change affecting not only nature but also human lives and our ecosystem. In addition to this, as Bhutan keeps developing, there is a growing energy demand in infrastructure, transport, industry, and appliance sectors. It is everyone’s responsibility to be mindful of our energy consumption pattern and contribute to diversifying our energy sources to ensure energy security. I am fortunate and glad that my official work is something I am already passionate about and makes me a responsible citizen of my country and globally.

How did Australia Awards help you enhance your career?

Australia Awards gave me the opportunity to complete a Master of Renewable and Sustainable Energy. Besides completing a degree from a world class institution, I was able to build a strong network during my studies. In addition to that, the course I took built my confidence to take up more challenging projects at work. I am now able to guide my juniors at work and share the knowledge that I gained with them.   

Apart from your academic studies, what did you learn from your time in Australia?

I learnt to always keep learning and updating myself with the latest technologies and information. I also learnt that networking is a very powerful tool and can help us grow both personally and professionally.

What you hope to do in the future, particularly in relation to the renewable energy/environment sector?

I hope to become a national energy specialist so I can contribute to nation building in renewable energy and  energy efficiency. I hope to be a part of the innovative transformation of the energy sector in Bhutan and impart my knowledge and experience to the younger generation so they can continue this work for our country.

My department has the national mandate to ensure Bhutan meets the Sustainable Development Goal 7 objectives of: providing universal access to affordable, reliable, and modern energy services; substantially increasing the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix; and doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030. Following the direction set out in the ‘Energy Transition Pathway for the 2030 Agenda, SDG 7 Roadmap for Bhutan’, I hope to contribute to Bhutan meeting the SDG 7-related goals and targets by supporting policy change initiatives on energy security (exploiting wind and solar energy potential), decreasing consumption of fossil fuels by promoting electric vehicles, and contributing to decarbonisation efforts of the country (promoting clean cooking technologies).

Lastly, what is your message on this World Environment Day?

I believe that change starts with me.