A transnational power grid without Pakistan

Vol 4, PW 3 (15 Mar 00) Midstream & Downstream

In India there is no hostility to the trade of either gas or power.

This at least is the view of SM Majumdar, Executive Director, of the Powergrid Corporation of India. Majumdar told delegates at Kathmandu he believes a transnational power grid serving the nations of South Asia is inevitable.

"There is immense potential," said Majumdar, "It is a must." India's enthusiasm is not surprising. The country is starved of power.

Present installed capacity of 93,240-MW still results in an 11% shortage during peak hours and 8% in off-peak hours. India's Central Electricity Authority plans to increase capacity to 145,000-MW by 2012, but few believe it will happen.

Hence the search for power from friendly neighbours. In this, India is already ahead.

It has a model agreement to buy 90% of the power generated from a 360-MW power plant in Bhutan, a similar agreement to buy and sell power with Nepal, and a live proposal to buy future power from Bangladesh if Dhaka decides NOT to sell raw gas and feeds it to the power sector instead. India aims to extend the grid to Myanmar, through its link with Bangladesh.

A further 1,000-MW is destined from a hydropower plant in Bhutan. By 2006, Majumdar believes there's potential for a transnational power grid connecting India with Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

"It will come in phases, starting with Bhutan and Bangladesh, then Nepal and Sri Lanka." Unfortunately Pakistan does not fit into the equation, despite the fact it has 2,000-MW of surplus power ready to feed into Delhi's northern grid. Past talks on the issue stalled on price and have not resumed since relations nose-dived after Kargil and Kandahar.

If a transnational grid happens, it'll happen without Pakistan.