Saarc countries planning to set up common power grid

New Delhi | Updated: Sep 12 2014, 08:17am hrs
A South Asian regional grid will be on top of the agenda when the energy ministers from member countries of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) meet next month. While the concept of has been in circulation for some time now, Modis focus on immediate neighbourhood will see India pushing for the grid.

The proposed cross country grid is being envisaged for harnessing each SAARC nation's capacities and resources to address growing energy needs in the region. India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are part of SAARC.

Power minister Piyush Goyal on Thursday said his ministry is working out a schedule to hold a conference of power ministers from SAARC nations. On the lines of Prime Minister Narendra Modi reaching out to Indias neighbours during his swearing-in, we look at relationship with an open mind based on the strength of Indias security interests and better economic relations," he added.

The venue of the SAARC meeting is yet to be decided.

The concept of a regional grid was first discussed in 1998, but apart from some bilateral transmission connectivity, the idea in its entirety is yet to take off. The grids of Nepal and Bhutan are already connected with the Indian grids. Bhutan had also provided hydroelectricity to the northern grid in the when it had collapsed owing to overdrawal by some states in July 2012 . Last year, India also commissioned a transmission link to facilitate cross-border electricity transfer of up to 500 mega watt from India to Bangladesh.

We have received positive indications from all countries. The meeting of energy ministers of SAARC next month will help crystallize the regional grid concept further, leading to some ground work in near future, a power ministry official said.

State-run Power Grid has been preparing a road map for setting up an electricity grid to connect SAARC nations including Pakistan and Sri Lanka. India-Sri Lanka under sea power cables project was expected to be completed by 2013, but has been delayed. The line is expected to take 1,000 MW will enable the two countries to trade surplus power.

Among others, India plans to export electricity to Pakistan through Amritsar-Lahore line but the infrastructure is yet to come up on either side of the border. Pakistan has been dealing with its own issues and while it wanted to import electricity for its power-starved population, India is still waiting for required infrastructure on on their side of the border, a power ministry source said adding that a multilateral regional grid would be able to overcome some bilateral issues in electricity trade.

Sumit Jha