South Asia Region Can Share Power for Mutual Benefit
Compiled from articles appearing from January 28-30, 2002 in Bangladesh Observer, The Daily Star, The Independent, The Financial Express, and New Nation Independent Daily.
DHAKA, January 30, 2002. South Asian energy officials from the government and private sectors as well as representatives from the U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Asian Development Bank, and USAID gathered in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on January 29-30, 2002 for the fourth semi-annual meeting of the South Asia Regional Initiative for Energy Cooperation (SARI/Energy). Participants from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, and Sri Lanka discussed opportunities for training, partnerships, private sector investment, and a pre-feasibility study for a Four Borders power sharing project. During the two-day summit, the South Asia Regional Energy Coalition (SAREC) was launched to serve as a catalyst between government and the private sector to develop the South Asian energy sector.
U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh Mary Ann Peters, who spoke at the meeting, said the countries of the South Asia region could share power for their mutual benefit. "Access to energy is the essential element of development of the economy," she added.
Robert W. Beckman, SARI/Energy Regional Coordinator and Program Manager, stated that "We're looking at the potential regional cooperation for the development of all the countries." The meeting provided a venue to discuss the ways and means to make energy sharing on a cost effective basis a reality. Power produced in each country could go to another country, Beckman explained. SARI is not dealing with the complex issues of power distribution or financing projects, but rather is focusing on creating a receptive policy environment for power sharing. SARI conducts only feasibility studies and training. ADB was on hand to discuss the possibility of financing regional energy projects.
During the meting, Nexant, the U.S. firm that produced the Four Borders Project feasibility study, explained the proposed scheme to interconnect the power transmission systems of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal. Nexant suggested that these countries can exchange up to 500MW of power among them with an investment of US$31.6 million. The energy experts believe that if private sector investments are made in the multilateral power transmission exchange, the price of electricity would become competitive. The study is based on the premise that both Nepal and Bhutan will have significant surplus hydropower by 2012 for export to India and Bangladesh. They stressed the need for political consensus to make such projects a reality, though. A working group was formed comprising representatives from each country to examine the three technically viable options proposed.
Chief Executive Officer of SAREC, Herbert J. Davis, who is also the Managing Director of the U.S. Department of Commerce South Asia Region, launched SAREC during the SARI-Energy meeting. He announced that former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Bob Mosbacher and former Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson agreed to serve as co-chairmen of SAREC. "We will appreciate broad-based energy cooperation among South Asian countries and encourage foreign investments, especially by US companies, in energy development in the region," said Davis. He invited coalition members to a ministerial-level energy summit in Washington to be held in June or September 2002 to discuss the potential for South Asia energy development through private sector investment.
Members of SAREC include American Chambers of Commerce for Bangladesh, India, and Sri Lanka; Association of Chambers of Commerce of India; Bangladesh Energy Companies Association; Bhutan Chambers of Commerce and Industry; Ceylon Chamber of Commerce; Confederation of Indian Industries; Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Energy Forum (Sri Lanka); Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry; Federation of Chambers of Industry and Commerce - Sri Lanka; Foreign Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry - Bangladesh; India Energy Forum; Maldives National Chamber of Commerce; National Chamber of Commerce of Sri Lanka; Nepal Chamber of Commerce; Nepal-USA chamber of Commerce; Sri Lanka Solar Energy Association; and the U.S. Energy Association.
For more information on SARI-Energy activities and training in 2002, please visit the project website. SARI-Energy, launched in 2000, is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.