Energy diplomacy needs consensus

Bangladesh+India+NepalEnergy experts have appreciated the government’s ‘energy diplomacy’ but emphasised a concrete strategy based on national consensus for its sustainability.

Dhaka is pursuing ‘energy diplomacy’ to foster regional cooperation in the energy and power sector to meet each others’ demand.

Accordingly, Bangladesh has proposed to create South Asian Power Grid covering all the Saarc countries. Another move was taken to create cooperation in power and energy sectors between a number of South and Southeast Asian countries under the BIMSTEC umbrella.

About the energy diplomacy, eminent energy expert and BUET professor Dr. M Tamim said this is a “very good” effort. “I
think regional cooperation will reduce the risk of dependency on a single energy source,” he said.

He said when regional cooperation will be there, each country of the region will be immensely benefited. But such initiative needs an intensified approach to become successful, he suggested.

About Bangladesh’s move for import of electricity from Myanmar, he said the neighbouring country has been showing a “guarded approach” since the beginning. But if confidence building measures are taken and a relationship is built on the basis of trust, he believes Myanmar will come forward.

He said the measures regarding relations with Nepal, Bhutan and India have been working properly.

Another energy expert and also professor of BUET Dr. Ijaz Hossain welcomed the government’s energy diplomacy, but called for evolving a national strategy based on national consensus to ensure its sustainability.

“Many developed countries have taken such approach to go for energy sector development through regional cooperation. Those have been successful because they ensured their commercial viability,” he said.
But, like Bangladesh, many developing countries are not getting benefit because of their constraints in political and bureaucratic capabilities. The lack of commercial viability also impedes such approach, he added.

“So the government should ensure efficiency in political level, capability at bureaucratic level and also viability in commercial approach in addition to national consensus to become successful in energy diplomacy,” said Dr. Ijaz.

About the move, state minister for power, energy and mineral resources Nasrul Hamid said, “Realising the ever-increasing demand for energy for socio-economic development, such cooperation has been initiated through Saarc, SAEC and Bimstec to share hydropower via cross-border connectivity and capacity development.”

“Through the cooperation—hydropower potential of Bhutan and Nepal could be utilised for the sub-region,” he said recently while addressing an energy conference in New Delhi.

A Bimstec meeting in Dhaka on 16 March finalised a draft deal to set up power grid connections for electricity trade among its seven member countries—Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

As part of the government move for regional energy cooperation, Bangladesh has already set up cross border electricity grid with India for importing 500-megawatt power from India and also negotiating to import at least 3,500-MW more electricity through bilateral, regional and sub-regional joint venture initiatives from India, Myanmar, Nepal and Bhutan by 2030.

According to a senior official at the Bimstec Secretariat, the seven member states have the potential of generating around 260,000 megawatt of hydropower, including 150,000MW by India, 40,000MW by Myanmar, 30,000MW by Bhutan and Nepal each, 500MW by Bangladesh and Thailand
each and 1,000MW by Sri Lanka.

About the regional energy cooperation, Nasrul Hamid said such cooperation with neighbours has tremendous potential for unlocking regional long-term energy balance in a cost-effective manner.

He observed that cross-border electricity trading with India opens up possibility for power trading with Nepal and Bhutan as well.

Bangladesh has also moved for setting up a number of coal-fired power plants each having over 1200 MW under joint ventures with India, China, and Malaysia in the country.

Source : Prothom Alo