All the plans for advancing the lives of people in South Asian countries, including Internet access, are not likely to achieve fruition unless the electricity problems are solved. For this, one essential action is the the tapping of the abundant potential of the southern slopes of the Himalayas. Another is interconnection of the national grids of the South Asian countries. The Economist wrote about this, focusing on sub-continent, and leaving out Sri Lanka.
A second reason, says Raghuveer Sharma of the International Finance Corporation (part of the World Bank), was radical change that opened India’s domestic power market a decade ago. Big private firms now generate and trade electricity there and look abroad for projects. India’s government also presses for energy connections over borders, partly for the sake of diplomacy. There has even been talk of exporting 1GW to Lahore, in Pakistan—but fraught relations between the two countries make that a distant dream.
An official in India’s power ministry says South Asia will have to triple its energy production over the next 20 years. Integrating power grids and letting firms trade electricity internationally would be a big help. It would expand market opportunities and allow more varied use of energy sources to help meet differing peak demand. Nepal could export to India in summer, for example, to run fans and air conditioners. India would export energy back uphill in winter when Nepali rivers dry and turbines stop spinning.
The key point is that electricity consumers on both sides will benefit. The same applies to the grid interconnection between India and Sri Lanka that I’ve been pushing.
The simplest and most effective solution is to connect the Sri Lankan and South Indian grids. The massive demand on the other side of the Palk Strait can easily absorb excess power generated by the much smaller system in Sri Lanka and we may be able to draw power from India when needed. It is a win-win. A feasibility study has been completed by an Indian government-owned company. Implementation is what remains.