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Dhaka Tuesday,  Oct 4, 2022

Assessing South Asia’s Desire For Energy Security

Afsana Rubaiyat

Energy policy has always been an issue for all nations in the world since, as a result of industrialization, electricity use has been rising quickly and has become increasingly important in people’s lives and to national economies.

On 5% of the planet’s landmass, nearly a fourth of the world’s population resides in South Asia. Between 1990 and 2015, South Asia’s electricity production increased rapidly, from 340 terawatt hours (TWh) in 1990 to 1,500 TWh in 2015. Bhutan, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka achieved complete electrification in 2019, although Bangladesh only recently did so. The percentages are 94.4% and 97.7% for India and Afghanistan respectively, whereas it is 73.91% for Pakistan. In South Asia, Bhutan has the cheapest electricity prices ($0.036 per kWh), whereas India has the most expensive prices ($0.08 per kWh).

Power demands increased from 4,942 kWh in 2009 to 25,514 MW as of 2022 as a result of a large redesign of power generation by the Bangladeshi government. While Pakistan is still working to lessen the impact of power shortages on its economy, India is attempting to convert to renewable energy to meet 40% of total consumption.

To ensure that their economies run smoothly and that their citizens have access to sufficient, dependable, and affordable supplies of modern, clean energy, several nations are working towards energy security. The goal of South Asian countries’ power policy is to provide electricity to every citizen. The goal is to provide dependable, high-quality power effectively at prices that are fair, while also safeguarding the interests of the consumer. These deal with topics including energy production, transmission, and distribution, as well as rural electrification, research & innovation, environmental concerns, energy efficiency, and training of human resources.

Regional distinctions between these nations necessitate different strategies for economic feasibility. While nearly 75% of the electricity produced in Bangladesh is generated using natural gas, 99.9% of the energy in Nepal is produced using hydropower, 55% of the power in India is generated using coal, and Sri Lanka depends significantly on oil, spending up to 6% of its GDP on oil imports.

Since a rise in energy consumption results in an increase in GDP per capita of 1%, electrification not only contributes to a better quality of life but also strengthens the overall economy by raising the country’s GDP. The production of electricity is crucial for the economic development of middle-income nations. Increased investment and economic activity both inside and outside the nation are brought on by additional electricity, making this choice more practical than others like FDI inflows.

The expansion of electricity-use in households and firms has been extremely beneficial to the countries of South Asia. For instance, the industrial and agricultural sectors of Bangladesh, which account for 50.3%t of its GDP, require electricity to operate effectively. But on the other side, Pakistan’s industrialization of textiles declined by 9.22% in 2014 as a result of power constraints, costing the sector$12.4 billion. India, whose yearly power demand is rising by 6%, is leading South Asia in converting to renewable energy.

The power generation of rural Bangladesh using solar energy is a significant step toward achieving Sustainable Development Goal 5, “Attain gender equality and empower all women and girls” and Sustainable Development Goal 7, “Ensure access to adequate, efficient, sustainable, and modern energy for all by 2030.”

Improved infrastructure, or SDG 9 (which calls for “building robust infrastructure, promoting equitable and sustainable industrialization, and fostering innovation”), is made possible by access to energy. Access to energy also contributes to digital education through affordable internet (SDG 4, or “ensure inclusive and quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all”), more people finding work (SDG 1: “no poverty”), and connect to digital health solutions (SDG 3, or “focus on ensuring healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”).

Leaders in South Asia are concentrating more and more on developing modern, efficient, and cutting-edge electricity production technologies. Hydropower, solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass are a few of the many renewable energy sources that can be used in South Asia and can be traded regionally for electricity. When there was hydro-commerce between India and Bhutan in 2010, the initial Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) advantages, including poverty reduction, greater energy efficiency, and enhanced quality of life, were realized.

A rooftop solar panel initiative in Bangladesh, which is imitated in other parts of the world, provides 45% of the power demands in rural areas that are inaccessible to regular grid-based electricity. This is a crucial step toward Bangladesh’s nationally-decided contribution objective of 10% renewable energy in overall power output.

Though the geographical framework for energy cooperation was created by the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in 2014, its execution is in doubt. The Myanmar-Bangladesh-India gas pipeline, the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepalsub-regional framework for energy cooperation, and the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline — which is rumoured to be extended to Bangladesh — are just a few examples of bilateral and multilateral power trade agreements.

With a substantial portion coming from the Kokrajhar power plant in Assam valued at $470m, India exports 1,200 MW of electricity to Bangladesh, meeting roughly 25% of the country’s daily energy required. Bhutan sends about $100m worth of its own hydroelectricity, or 70%, to India. On the other side, Nepal exports fossil fuels worth $1.2bn to India in addition to selling its excess hydroelectricity.

South Asia is strengthening its power grids and green energy sources like solar and hydroelectricity in order to meet the region’s rising energy demand. In the future, resilient energy frameworks will be required, including better building design techniques, climate-proof infrastructure, a flexible monitoring framework, and an integrated resource strategy that encourages the development of renewable energy sources.

Governments cannot offer dependable and secure energy frameworks on their own; private sector investment is essential. In Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan, private funding contributed to 44%, 48.5%, and 53%, respectively, of home electricity in 2022. The world’s most populated region may be able to overcome its energy transition hurdles thanks to public-private partnerships.

Afsana Rubaiyat i

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