South Asia energy ministers gathered in New Delhi to discuss the role of energy production to regional prosperity, and the part to be played by hydropower.
India Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde convened the energy ministers of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to discuss energy-related issues in promoting the welfare of the people of South Asia. SAARC member nations include Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
Citing the successful development of the 1,020-MW Tala hydroelectric project in Bhutan, Shinde said hydro projects have the potential to meet the energy needs of the region in a cost-effective and sustainable manner, while providing significant income to project host countries.
Ministers of India and Bhutan signed agreements in 2006 for long-term cooperation on hydropower development and for India’s purchase of power from Tala, which is being built in Bhutan with Indian assistance. (HNN 8/1/06)
Bhutan’s minister highlighted gains it has made in cooperation with India and outlined additional hydro projects to be taken up soon. Both Bhutan and Nepal expressed their eagerness to develop their untapped hydro potential to meet their own needs and to export power to neighboring countries.
The energy ministers of other SAARC countries highlighted the energy challenges they face. Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Maldives, who are heavily dependent on oil and gas, emphasized the need to diversify the energy mix, exploit renewable sources of energy, and make use of resources available regionally.
Shinde cited progress in regional energy integration and suggested country-to-country grid interconnections should be pursued as the building blocks for feasible transmission of electricity across the region. The ministers approved the commissioning of a comprehensive study on energy trade, with an eye to giving greater confidence to potential investors.
In a preliminary meeting to the energy ministers’ meet, Shinde convened a South Asia Energy Dialogue March 5 of experts, academics, and representatives of SAARC countries.
The minister said India places the highest priority on the development of all feasible hydro potential as clean and renewable energy. He said less than a fifth of feasible hydro potential has been developed in South Asia, providing a huge opportunity.
The India power minister said international opinion has changed significantly, with international financial institutions once again looking favorably at hydropower projects.