Deal on exchange of power likely
An agreement on exchange of electricity during non-peak hours between India and Bangladesh is expected to power Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's upcoming visit to New Delhi to a substantive level, and consolidate the vision for a Saarc power grid.
Under the proposed agreement, expected to be signed during Hasina's visit, the two countries are exploring the possibility of trading electricity for about 17 hours a day, official sources in New Delhi said, adding that the volume of power could range from 250 megawatts (MW) to begin with to 1,000MW later.
Bangladesh is understood to have identified four points including Ishwardi and Ashuganj where electricity might be exchanged.
The exchange of power, needs connecting the transmission systems of the two countries, a project that is estimated to cost about 200 million dollars, the sources said.
The connection between transmission lines of India and Bangladesh could help the latter to also source power from Bhutan which has an abundance of hydroelectricity.
Since India is already in talks with Sri Lanka for an under-sea cable line and with Nepal for an overland link in the electricity sector, the link with Bangladesh will go a long way in bringing to reality the vision of a South Asian power grid.
India is working on a plan to step up its electricity import from Bhutan to 5,000MW in the next decade or so.
The agreement on exchange of electricity between India and Bangladesh could pave the way for investment by Indian companies in Bangladesh power sector, the sources said.
In a major breakthrough in bilateral relations during Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni's visit to New Delhi in August this year, India agreed to supply 250MW of electricity to Bangladesh to start with.
The last BNP government headed by Khaleda Zia had wanted to use the Indian power grid to source electricity from Bhutan in return for allowing a natural gas pipeline from Myanmar to India through Bangladesh territory.
India had at that time insisted that the two issues should not be linked with each other as power exchange is a bilateral issue while the pipeline a three-nation project.