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India set to forge energy alliances across S. Asia

Anil Sasi

New Delhi , Sept. 18

INDIA is looking at the possibility of emerging as a regional energy hub in South Asia.

It has plans to set up bilateral grids with some of the neighbouring countries and forge sectoral alliances with others.

While a strengthening of the existing grids with Nepal and Bhutan is being planned, bilateral electricity interconnections with Myanmar for exchange of power is high up on the agenda.

According to a senior Power Ministry official, the proposal for a bilateral grid with Myanmar and the issue of strengthening of transmission links with Nepal and Bhutan are to be taken up at the next Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) meeting.

National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) has also initiated talks with Government authorities in Myanmar to explore the possibilities of setting up a gas-based power plant in the country and wheeling the power into India, officials said.

Plans are afoot to bring in gas from Bangladesh to run thermal stations in the eastern parts of the country. The possibility of setting up a power station in Bangladesh by an Indian utility, using Bangladeshi gas as fuel is being looked at. The power generated will be transmitted back to India, officials said. Tata Power is already in the process of setting up a 1,000 MW gas based power plant in Bangladesh.

Work on the 1,020 MW Tala Power project in Bhutan is also under way and the agreement between the Centre and the Government of Bhutan provides for the surplus power from the project to be purchased by India at mutually agreed rates. Generation from the project is likely to commence from March 2006, with the output earmarked for West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and Sikkim.

Indian utilities are also creating their imprint across the South Asian regions. NTPC is preparing for a Sri Lanka foray, while Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd (PGCIL) is already working on augmenting a crucial transmission link in Afghanistan, officials said. The project involves the construction of a 220 kV D/C transmission system connecting Phul-e Khumri to Kabul and setting up a 220/110 kV sub station in the Afghan capital.

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