Politics to drive power in South Asia

Online Business Dialogue Renewable Energy
Restart Asian Economies: Ideas and action for renewable energy

“Politics needs to drive the energy sector cooperation in the region” said Nawa Raj Dhakal, the Deputy Executive Director of Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC), a mandated institution in Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, under the Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation, Government of Nepal. Elaborating further on the issue of a bilateral and/or multi-lateral cooperation among countries he said, “Efforts need to be made between and among countries in the region to strengthen ties in Energy Sector.” SAARC member nations agreed to work towards energy cooperation by signing an agreement in Nov 2014 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Similar, Memorandum of Understanding were signed in 2018 under the BIMSTEC for Grid-Interconnection.

Mr. Nawa Raj Dhakal was speaking at the Online Business Dialogue organized by the South Asia office of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation under the topic “RESTART ASIAN ECONOMIES: Ideas and Actions for the Renewable Energy Sector”. This was the first panel discussion under the theme of Online Business Dialogue organized in the year 2021, after having organized successful rounds of discussions last year. The other panelist was Lakmal Fernando, CEO and Director, Regen Renewables Pvt Ltd, Sri Lanka.

Regional trade and cooperation in the energy sector would strengthen bi-lateral and multi-lateral ties within the region and complementarities in energy sources need to be explored. Encouraging and strengthening private sector cooperation would strengthen people-to-people ties and compliment the current Govt-to-Govt monopoly in the energy sector in South Asia

Until 2017, Nepal was an energy deficient country with power-cuts of 12-16 hours/day. Today, with a cumulative installed capacity of 1430 MW of which 96% is from Renewable sources, Nepal has been able to overcome the insufficient supply. To reduce its over-dependence on hydropower, Nepal is working on complimenting its hydropower with solar energy. A good Energy Mix would be the best solution going forward, says Nawa Raj.

According to Lakmal Fernando, “for Sri Lanka, Renewable Energy has two dimensions, the utility side and the environment side. If you want to go for de-carbonisation, Sri Lanka will have to adopt Renewable Energy.” The perception of Renewable Energy being expensive is no longer there, as global prices of RE are coming down. On the contrary, there is a resistance to fossil-fuel based sources of energy. With advancements in technology, availability of high efficiency devices would bring the costs further down. Sri Lanka is working to expand its electricity production to meet the current shortage and the growing needs of a growing economy. This requires Sri Lanka to invest in Infrastructure to make its Grid more stable and capable of absorbing the additional load into the Grid.

Both the panelists echoed their support to increase awareness on Renewable Energy. “The Governments and NGO’s have a responsibility to create awareness, to communicate and to educate the people of Sri Lanka,” said Lakmal. Introducing renewable energy in school curriculum will be a significant step in creating awareness in the society. The children will become influencers and educate parents towards the benefits of a de-carbonised society. Therefore, the bottoms-up approach will actually be very useful in creating awareness in Sri Lanka.

Whereby, his Nepalese counterpart, Nawa Raj, agreed that the awareness creation remains an important aspect to educate the people, he said, “Joint efforts have to be made by the Government, the NGO’s and the private sector to raise awareness on the issue of Renewable Energy.” Renewable energy does feature as a chapter in schools in Nepal and at the University level, renewable energy is a subject in the curriculum for certain specific streams. Discussions are currently underway to introduce energy efficiency, energy audit and energy management into the curriculum.

 “The appetite towards socio-economic development due to the restructuring of governance after 2015 constitution in Nepal is quite high” says Nawa Raj. Nepal has set out ambitious targets in its Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The roadmap for SDGs has set a target to increase the capacity to 5000MW by 2023 and 15000MW by 2030.Out of these 15000 MW, two-thirds are for domestic consumption, while Nepal would like to export the other 5000 MW. The off-grid solutions for Nepal lie exclusively in the domain of renewable energy. Most of the projects in Nepal are run-of-the-river projects and storage projects remain in the pipe-line.

Dr Carsten Klein, Head of the regional office South Asia, Friedrich Naumann Foundation in his closing remarks appreciated the two speakers. He thanked the two speakers for the clear signals offering free-market solutions and reasonable regulatory specifications by the respective governments of Sri Lanka and Nepal. As this format gains popularity, he assured the participants that these discussions would continue on economic issues.