Tripartite meet on energy cooperation uncertain

Kathmandu, January 5

A planned tripartite meeting on energy cooperation between Nepal, India and Bangladesh, which was earlier fixed for September 12, has not been held even after nearly four months of the planned schedule.

With an aim to address the key concerns related to cross-border transmission lines, power trade and energy banking, the government had said it is gearing up to hold discussions with power ministers of India and Bangladesh. However, due to the lack of coordination between the energy ministers of the three countries the uncertainty behind the energy cooperation meeting has been rising.

A few months ago, Minister for Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation, Barsha Man Pun, had claimed that India’s Minister of State for Power RK Singh and Bangladesh’s Minister of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid had confirmed their participation in the discussion to be held in Kathmandu.

As per the initial agreement made by the three countries, the Indian External Affairs Ministry was assigned the responsibility to call the meeting as soon as possible.

But the Indian ministry is yet to coordinate with Nepal and Bangladesh.

Minister Pun expects the Indian External Affairs Ministry to call the meeting soon. “We are working in close coordination with the concerned Indian authorities to expedite the preparation works.”

He further informed the ministry is about to complete framing agendas that will be presented in the meeting.

“In this meeting we will propose to India to provide direct dedicated high-voltage cross-border transmission line to Bangladesh through Indian terrain and in the previous meeting the Indian authorities were positive on the matter,” Pun informed.

The next meeting is also expected to either fix the modality of transmission and commercial terms for the use of the Indian grid or pave the way for direct power trade between Nepal and Bangladesh via India.

“The role of the Indian government is critical for breaking the deadlock on some key issues related to building transmission line between Nepal and Bangladesh, so the meeting will be very important for us,” Pun said, adding, that the upcoming meeting will pave the way for energy trade with India and Bangladesh.

On December 4, last year, Nepal and Bangladesh had also agreed to build a cross-border transmission line to supply electricity generated in Nepal to Bangladesh.

On December 23, the Indian government had amended its cross-border power trade regulations paving the way for Nepali power producers to export electricity not only to India but also to third countries like Bangladesh, Bhutan and Myanmar.

At that time, Indian authorities had rescinded a provision, which stated that only companies fully owned by the governments of the concerned countries or those having at least 51 per cent equity investment of Indian public or private companies could export power to the Indian market after obtaining one-time approval from the designated authority in India.

Even though the three countries have held numerous bilateral and trilateral meetings regarding power trade among each other, they have not reached any tangible agreement so far.

Earlier, the Bangladeshi government had announced to buy more than 9,000 megawatts of electricity from Nepal by 2040.

As per Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation, Nepal will soon be able to export 500 megawatts of electricity to Bangladesh. The Bangladeshi government has already signed an agreement to import electricity from the Upper Karnali hydropower project, which has installed capacity of 900 megawatts and is being developed by India-based GMR.