The goal of an energy-secure South Asia

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SDGs

Mains level : Paper 2- Energy security of South Asia

Context

Given that a 0.46% increase in energy consumption leads to a 1% increase in GDP per capita, electrification not only helps in improving lifestyle but also adds to the aggregate economy by improving the nation’s GDP.

Widening electricity coverage in South Asian nations

  • The electricity policies of South Asian countries aim at providing electricity to every household.
  • The issues these policies address include generation, transmission, distribution, rural electrification, research and development, environmental issues, energy conservation and human resource training.
  • Bangladesh has achieved 100% electrification recently while Bhutan, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka accomplished this in 2019.
  • For India and Afghanistan, the figures are 94.4% and 97.7%, respectively, while for Pakistan it is 73.91%.
  • Bhutan has the cheapest electricity price in South Asia (U.S.$0.036 per kilowatt hour, or kWh) while India has the highest (U.S.$0.08 per kWh.) 
  • South Asia is reinforcing its transmission and distribution frameworks to cater to growing energy demand not only through the expansion of power grids but also by boosting green energy such as solar power or hydroelectricity.

Adapting to renewable

  • Geographical differences between these countries call for a different approach depending on resources.
  •  India leads South Asia in adapting to renewable power, with its annual demand for power increasing by 6%.
  • India’s pledge to move 40% of total energy produced to renewable energy is also a big step.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his ‘net-zero by 2070’ pledge at COP26 in Glasgow asserted India’s target to increase the capacity of renewable energy from 450GW to 500GW by 2030.
  • The region is moving towards green growth and energy as India hosts the International Solar Alliance.
  • South Asia has vast renewable energy resources — hydropower, solar, wind, geothermal and biomass — which can be harnessed for domestic use as well as regional power trade.

Steps toward SDGs

  • Solar power-driven electrification in rural Bangladesh is a huge step towards Sustainable Development Goal 7.
  • Access to electricity improves infrastructure i.e., SDG 9 (which is “build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation”).
  • Energy access helps online education through affordable Internet (SDG 4, or “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”), more people are employed (SDG 1: “no poverty”), and are able to access tech-based health solutions (SDG 3, or “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”).

Regional energy trade

  • The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) prepared the regional energy cooperation framework in 2014, but its implementation is questionable.
  • Energy trade agreements: There are a number of bilateral and multilateral energy trade agreements such as the India-Nepal petroleum pipeline deal, the India-Bhutan hydroelectric joint venture, the Myanmar-Bangladesh-India gas pipeline, the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) sub-regional framework for energy cooperation, and the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline, rumoured to be extended to Bangladesh.
  • Challenges: ‘South Asia’s regional geopolitics is determined by the conflation of identity, politics, and international borders.
  • The current participation in cross-border projects has been restricted to respective tasks, among Bhutan and India or Nepal and India.
  • It is only now that power-sharing projects among the three nations, Nepal, India, and Bangladesh, have been deemed conceivable.

Way forward

  • Energy framework: Going forward, resilient energy frameworks are what are needed such as better building-design practices, climate-proof infrastructure, a flexible monitory framework, and an integrated resource plan that supports renewable energy innovation.
  • Public-Private Partnership: Government alone cannot be the provider of reliable and secure energy frameworks, and private sector investment is crucial.

Conclusion

While universal coverage can catalyse the region’s economic growth, energy trade must be linked to peace building.

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