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Pema Wangchuk aspires to modernise the renewable energy industry in Bhutan

Posted: 19 February 2024

Bhutan, Experience, In Australia, Scholar,

Pema Wangchuk from Bhutan began studying a Master of Engineering (Electrical Engineering) at RMIT University in Victoria in 2023, with the support of an Australia Awards Scholarship.

Pema was featured as ‘the face’ of the Australia Awards’ promotions in Bhutan for study commencing in 2025. He recently took time to answer our questions about his Australia Awards experience and offer his advice for prospective Scholarship applicants.

Why did you apply for an Australia Awards Scholarship?

I applied for this Scholarship because, after ten years of experience in power distribution, transmission and renewable energy projects in my country, I felt that it was time for me to upgrade my qualifications to proceed further in electrical engineering and the renewable energy field through advanced coursework, high impact research and specialisation through research projects. The sectors of smart-grid technology and renewable energy are experiencing rapid growth in Bhutan and around the world. As a result, the electrical engineering field requires engineers who can design and model power systems networks, tackle complex electrical challenges, solve problems, develop innovative technologies, and improve the quality and reliability of power networks.

To achieve such cutting-edge skills and knowledge, the Australia Awards Scholarship presented an amazing avenue for me to pursue my dream of obtaining a master’s degree from one of the globally recognised world-class universities in Australia. Therefore, the Scholarship will not only contribute to the human resource capacity development of my employer, but also make me capable of developing solutions for grid modernisation, digitalisation and upscaling renewable energy.

Pema in Melbourne.

How has your Australia Awards Scholarship contributed to your personal and professional growth?

On a personal level, I have acquired the skills to live in a globalised, multicultural society and learnt how to interact and collaborate with people from diverse backgrounds. Professionally, this Scholarship has provided me with advanced knowledge and skills that are required to perform at the highest level in the electrical engineering field. It has exposed me to the latest technological advancements and breakthroughs, and new discoveries in the field of electrical engineering. I also learnt about the best engineering practices available in Australia, which will have a huge impact in developing solutions to modernise, automate and digitalise the conventional power system network in Bhutan to adapt and embrace high-end modern technologies. Furthermore, I have also learnt and experimented with advanced ways to solve complex problems in the power sector from this Scholarship. From day one of the Scholarship, I was passionate about learning in-depth about smart-grid technology, renewable energy and automation from Australia.

After my experiences here, I feel that I have gained a deeper understanding of the intersection between smart-grid technology and renewable energy, and how the two can be utilised to improve power quality and reliability, and manage power demand effectively. Apart from the knowledge and skills, I was also able to make linkages and connections with many industry experts and key professors in Australia in the field of smart-grids and renewable energy, which I can utilise as a tool for problem-solving, human resource development and knowledge-sharing after returning to my country. Australia Awards has not only provided me with high quality education, but also opened doors to a variety of opportunities that have contributed to my personal and professional growth.

How has life been in Australia so far outside of university?

Australia has diverse landscapes, and its cultural offerings provide endless opportunities for exploration and enjoyment. Whether you are interested in outdoor adventures, skyscrapers, cultural experiences or simply relaxing on the beach, Australia has something for everyone. Australia has a rich Indigenous history and multicultural society where people are nice and welcoming, which makes it a perfect place to explore and relax. Beyond my academic journey, I have enjoyed visiting amazing beaches, zoos and incredible museums, as well as the breathtaking natural beauty of Victoria.

As I am a sports fan, I also enjoy visiting sports stadiums to watch and feel the live game experience. With its rich culture and diverse landscapes, you will realise that two years of study time is far too little to explore Australia! On a serious note, beyond my studies, I also had the opportunity to do an internship with one of the leading electrical companies in Victoria with the support of a Professional Development Grant provided by Australia Awards. The internship helped me to learn the work culture, ethics and industry best practices available in Australia. Overall, I can say that my time in Australia so far has been truly transformative and meaningful.

Pema with other Bhutanese scholars attending the Scholars Forum in Canberra in April 2023.

What do you hope to do once you return to your home country?

The electricity network in Bhutan is rapidly evolving with emerging technologies like smart-grid technology and integration of renewable energy to the existing power grid. My employer, Bhutan Power Corporation Limited, has a strategic roadmap to automate, digitalise and modernise the electricity grid to keep pace with the fast-changing power supply system and emerging technologies. This strategy is all directed towards providing reliable, adequate and quality power supply to the customers, be they in urban or rural areas.

Therefore, I am excited and thrilled to apply my knowledge and skills gained from Australia to develop solutions, while embracing the evolution in Bhutan from the conventional electricity grid to smart-grids, as well as upscaling, integrating and developing renewable energy, which will take the electricity landscape to the next level, eventually competing with regional markets. I am extremely grateful to Australia Awards for giving me the opportunity to make a positive impact in my country and beyond.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of applying for an Australia Awards Scholarship?

For potential scholars, I would say understand and recognise your personal goals and country’s priorities while applying. It will be a lifechanging opportunity if you are selected for an Australia Awards Scholarship. It will not only enhance your knowledge and skills in your field, but will also provide you with the skills to live in a globalised, multicultural society. The best part of the Scholarship is that you will get to study in world-renowned universities with global recognition. This Scholarship is special because it not only provides financial support for education, but also emphasises the development of individuals as leaders and contributors to have a positive impact on their home countries and the broader global community. Australia Awards will connect you with the global leaders in your field for your progress and growth.