We are looking to create a SAARC market for electricity: Ihsanullah Marwat,SAARC Energy Centre Program Coordinatior Tells the Oslo Times

    We are looking to create a SAARC market for electricity: Ihsanullah Marwat,SAARC Energy Centre Program Coordinatior Tells the Oslo Times

    Nov 15, Islamabad: The SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) on sustainable engergy took place at Kathmandu Nepal on Tuesday, during this event, an Oslo Times Representative in the country met with Ihsanullah Marwat, (Program Coordinator) for the SAARC Energy Center for an exclusive interview on the Energy problems in South Asia.


    Can you tell us a little about the SAARC Energy Center and its creation and functions?

    Well we know that South Asia is a region of enormous prosperity, growth & economic development, having a cultural heritage of strong bonding.To further strengthen and sustain the bonding among the people of this region, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was created in 1985.Whereas SAARC Energy Centre, Islamabad is one of several regional centers of SAARC that were established under the objective to promote the welfare of the people of South Asia, strengthen collective self-reliance, promote active collaboration and mutual assistance in the economic, social, cultural, technical and scientific field.SAARC Energy Centre (SEC) was created through Dhaka Declaration, in 2005, as the special purpose vehicle to realize the vision of SAARC leaders to establish an Energy Ring in South Asia. It started its journey from 1st March, 2006 in Islamabad, Pakistan.
    We believe energy cooperation is one of the most important drivers leading to durable peace and prosperity in the Region. SEC has its vision to initiate, promote and facilitate cooperation in energy sector of the SAARC Member States for the benefit of all.Its funding is made through SAARC Member States; supervised by a Governing Board comprising all the Member States.

    Technical resource is provided through Professional staff selected from the SAARC Member States, and wherever needed expert services are hired through outsourcing as well.Range of Activities: Major interventions that SEC carries out are in the form of Research Studies, Training Workshops, Dissemination Seminars, and Special Projects in various fields of energy.

    Please tell us the purpose of your visit here in Nepal?
    In fact we are here in Kathmandu to hold dissemination workshop. It is our approved program for the year 2017. Purpose of this workshop is to disseminate the findings and recommendations of two studies that were undertaken by

    SAARC Energy Center in 2016, among stake holders from Member States. Naming:
    1. “Potential for Energy Storage Technologies in Electricity Sector of SAARC Member States” &
    2. “Assess the Present Situation, Gaps in Capacity, Technology and Policy & Regulatory Instruments in Coal sector in SAARC Member States”.

    Final report would be published upon incorporating the recommendations and suggestions from stake holders. Let me also add for the information of you all that our programs are mainly demand driven; I mean demand from Member States. We hold such workshop in all Member State in collaboration with local relevant agencies, being nominated by the respective Governing Board Member. The workshops are attended by the participants from all Member States and large presence from the host Member State.

    Tell me Mr. Marwat, about the biggest challenges of energy in South Asian region?
    Energy plays an important role in our daily life. It ensures the national security of a country and runs the wheel of economy of the country. Though it is ranked as one of the regions with lowest per capita Energy consumption, particularly in the form of electricity, South Asia is blessed with enormous energy potential for generating sufficient amount of electricity. The countries under SAARC do not produce enough oil and gas for their needs, and thus have to import them from other countries. The cost of these imported oils and gases are very high and come at the cost of other developmental requirements. Increase in population and industrialization in almost all of these developing countries along with the unpredictable fluctuating energy prices are the most considerable threats to energy security in the region. This situation creates major effect on the development goals of the region. All SAARC Members need more power for their economic growth, but almost all of them except Bhutan are facing shortage and lack of primary energy.

    Tell me what SAARC has done to date about energy in the region?
    In my view the very first step taken by SAARC in the field of energy was when, 12th SAARC Summit (Islamabad on 4-6 January 2004) decided to set up a Working Group on Energy (WG/E) for creating South Asian energy cooperation including the concept of an Energy Ring. The 1st Meeting of the WG/E (15-16 June 2004) at Islamabad recommended the Plan of Action for regional energy cooperation including, inter alia, the possibility of setting up a SAARC Energy Centre. SAARC Energy Centre being mandated to promote development of energy resources, energy efficiency and conservation, develop renewable and alternative energy resources and enhance the development of SAARC expertise in energy development and management. SAARC Energy Center has undertaken about hundreds of interventions in the five thematic areas:
    a) Programme on “Energy Trade between the SAARC Countries” (PENT);
    b) Programme on “Integrated Assessments of Energy, Transport, and Environment” (PETREN);
    c) Programme to “Minimize Oil Imports through Improvements in Energy Efficiency and Fuel Substitution” (PROMO);
    d) Programme to “Successfully Implement Technology Transfer” (POSIT); and
    e) Programme on “Rural Electricity for Poverty Alleviation” (PREPA);

    SEC is converting energy challenges into opportunities for development. It is the platform involving officials, experts, academia, environmentalists and NGOs to tap potentials of cooperation in energy sector. It in deed helped the Member States at institutional as well as national level in enhancing the capacity of their professionals to cope up with the current and future challenges in their respective areas. This further enhanced the planning process at national level.
    I must agree that we are slow in our progress, but there are certain limitations of resources as well as some other constraints that can be held responsible for, somehow still we are moving in right direction in our target of having an energy sufficient and prosperous South Asia.

    Well in my personal view the major breakthrough was when the Heads of States of SAARC Member States signed SAARC Framework Agreement on Energy Cooperation (Electricity) in November 2014. Ultimate goal of the agreement is to create SAARC Market for Electricity (SAME). At present Five Member States has ratified the agreement and once it’s being ratified by all Member States, its implementation will play a game changer role. I must say it will be a greater contributor towards regional energy security.

    How you can see the energy situation of the region in next ten years?
    I believe next ten years are very crucial for the South Asian region as a whole. Afghanistan struggling hard to increase its network base and power generation through Hydro and other renewables; it is also very serious towards demand side management. Afghanistan already has taken aggressive legislative measure in this regard. Bangladesh is also trying to sustain its energy supply and shift more towards renewables and attain self-sufficiency. Bhutan which is mainly dependent on its huge hydel resource is considered as the only country with self-sufficiency since it exports excess energy to India, yet in winter they face shortages. For which they import electricity back from India. Coming ten years are also very critical for them, since they have some larger projects under construction and other are in feasibility stage to follow. I hope in next ten year Bhutan will be able to fully meet its own requirement and become a larger importer of the energy in the region. India being regional leader in the field is striving towards improving its energy security day by day with more focus on increasing its share of clean and indigenous resources, such as solar and wind energy being top most priority. Same way India also has a critical eye on energy efficiency both on supply side as well as demand side.

    Due to the dispersed nature of the islands, Maldives does not have one single national grid. Each island has its own electricity generation and distribution facility resulting in costly electricity service. Today, the country has a total installed capacity of 330MW of diesel generators to cater for the electricity demand, mostly dependent on fuels. Maldives is also looking for its renewable resources particularly solar, coupled with energy efficient consumption. Like Bhutan, Nepal is mainly dependent on hydal resources, at the moment it is having some gap between demand and supply. With its expansion in the generation capacity that is under process (mainly hydal projects), by next ten year or even before Nepalese are expecting excess power in their system that they think of exporting. Pakistan after facing a decade of long power shortages, has reasonably improved its supply and by next ten years it will not only be having enough supplies to meet its requirement but will be optimizing its resources from environmental aspects as well as per unit cost of energy to charge end user. Sri Lanka is not different than rest of the Member States; it is equally looking for efficient usage of energy along with more penetration of clean energies.

    What is your suggestion regarding energy for future?
    I believe all Member States are on right track in their energy plans and are at different level on their road towards energy security, yet it’s very clear that collective effort will play a catalyst role. Member States should take full advantage of the SAARC through SAARC Energy Centre as platform for multilateral trade with in the region and share indigenous resources among Member States on mutual interest basis. In terms of technology they can help each other by sharing their experience and through transfer of technologies. Another area could be collective imports of natural gas and electricity. There could be a huge benefit of a Regional LNG terminal or South Asian interconnected power system, particularly in the context of exploiting the significant hydropower potential that exists in Nepal and Bhutan. Similarly there are power trading prospects from Central Asian countries to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, to benefit from surplus hydropower in Tajikstan, Kyrgyz Republic, and potentially Afghanistan, in the future.

    The Oslo Times International News Network


    Related Posts