SAARC energy regulators call for greater regional cooperation


Ashraf Ansari

islamabad—The SAARC energy regulators conference here, 21-22 September, has called for greater regional cooperation in energy areas. Delegates from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan attended the two-day conference.
Given the importance of regional energy cooperation and promotion of cross-border electricity trade in the SAARC region the conference was an important milestone in reviewing the implementation status of SAARC Plan of Action on Energy Regulations (Electricity).
The Secretary Cabinet in his inaugural speech welcomed the delegates and said that SAARC member states are struggling with a massive gap in demand and supply. There is a need to address energy security from a regional perspective.
To achieve regional cooperation we have to take various factors into account including the high investment cost, private participation, environment, affordability and right of way. Harmonious energy policies, enabling legal environment and regulatory framework are key tools for regional trade and investment. He hoped that member states would take advantage of the momentum created by this meeting and contribute to overcome the issues of power sector in the region.
Delegations of participating states presented their country papers on the existing regulatory mechanisms, rules, methodologies and processes of respective members states.
Tariq Saddozai of Pakistan Chairperson of the SAARC Energy Regulators Meeting in his speech stressed the need for cooperation for the development of efficient conventional and renewable energy resources, strengthening of related transmission systems and cross-border electricity trade for sustainable development of member states.
He said Pakistan is already importing 100MW from Iran and CASA project would enable Afghanistan and Pakistan to import 1300MW electricity from Central Asian countries. Pakistan also submitted a draft MoU to India on importing 1200MW of electricity. He added that NEPRA Act envisages open access to transmission and distribution systems and NEPRA Interim Power Procurement Regulations have been framed to allow foreign generation companies to sell electricity to power purchasers.
He said, the power sector in Pakistan is in transition towards a competitive regime, which is targeted to be achieved by 2020. The Government of Pakistan has established one-window facilitators such as PPIB and AEDB to encourage private sector investment in electricity generation. While the power sector has witnessed success stories the read that lies ahead is beset with challenges and we believe that SAARC countries are facing similar issues.