A Bimstec meeting yesterday 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.
“After years of negotiation, the member states of Bimstec today finalised the draft of the deal,” said Anwar Hossain, joint secretary (development) of the Power Division yesterday.
“We are hopeful that this initiative will provide energy security in the region as it will enable the member states to share their surplus electricity with each other,” he added.
Senior officials of the member countries at the 5th meeting of the Bimstec Task Force on Trans Power Exchange finalised the MoU at Hotel Sonargaon in Dhaka.
The meeting highlighted the rich hydropower potential of the Bimstec member nations, especially India, Myanmar, Bhutan and Nepal.
The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec) is a regional organisation that came into being on June 6, 1997 through the Bangkok Declaration.
At the meeting yesterday, the Myanmar delegation in principle agreed to the draft but said they have yet to complete some internal process.
Anwar, who chaired the joint secretary-level meeting of the Task Force, told The Daily Star that the Bimstec countries have immense potential to generate electricity, especially hydropower.
Bangladesh can be greatly benefited once the MoU is implemented, he added.
A senior official of the foreign ministry said the draft would now be placed at the upcoming Bimstec Energy Secretaries meeting for fine tuning and then be submitted to the Third Energy Ministers' Meeting in Kathmandu sometime this year for signing.
Bangladesh has already set up cross border electricity grid with India for importing 500-Megawatt power from India.
The country is also currently negotiating to import at least 3,500-Megawatt more electricity through bilateral, regional and sub-regional joint venture initiatives from India, Myanmar, Nepal and Bhutan by 2030.
Officials said power import would serve as one of the main sources of the country's energy security by 2030. According to the government's plan, Bangladesh would have 39,000MW of power, nearly six times the amount today.
Elaborating on the Bimstec MoU, they said this would provide a broad framework for the implementation of grid interconnections to promoting rational and optimal power transmission in the region.
Based on the principles of mutual cooperation and sustainable development, the member states aspire to build interconnections for reliable, secure and economic electricity supply in the region under the MoU.
The Bimstec deal is almost similar to Saarc Framework Agreement for Energy Cooperation signed in Kathmandu on November 27, 2014 to set up a South Asian regional grid for cross-border trade of electricity.
Foreign ministry officials said the Bimstec move would expedite the implementation of the Saarc deal.
Officials said the MoU was prepared based on the Declaration of First Bimstec Energy Ministers' Conference held on October 4, 2005. This covered trans-power exchange and grid interconnection, hydropower development and energy security of the region.
Once approved, the MoU will pave the way for all member countries to buy and sell energy as per their necessity through private or public companies. It will ease power generation, distribution and trading between the Bimstec states.
The relevant Bimstec bodies will identify regional and sub-regional projects in the area of power generation, transmission and power trade, including hydropower, natural gas, solar, wind and bio-fuel, and implement them with top priority with to meet the increasing demand for power in the region.
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.
Earlier, Monowar Islam, secretary of Power Division at the power, energy and mineral resources ministry, inaugurated the meeting.
Bimstec Secretary General Sumith Nakandala spoke on the occasion.