ISLAMABAD - National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) Chairman Tariq Saddozoi on Tuesday emphasized the need for increased cooperation among member countries of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to promote trade of cross-border electricity which will help achieving sustainable economic growth and curbing loadshedding.

The Nepra chairman expressed these views while addressing the inaugural session of 2nd meeting of SAARC Council of Experts of Energy Regulators (Electricity). Underlining the need for increased cross-border trade of electricity, Sadozai said that it can play a major role in overcoming challenges to sustain rapid economic growth and making the region free of loadshedding. It will help bring down energy prices, mitigate power shocks, relieve shortages, facilitate decarbonisation and provide incentives for market extension and integration, he added.

The two-day meeting of SAARC Council of Experts of Energy Regulators (Electricity) was being attended by participants from members countries including Abdul Khayer and Firoz Zaman from Bangladesh, Nima Tshering and Sangay Phuntsho from Bhutan, Shazeena Ismail from Maldives, Nutan Prkash Sharman and Sumanta Kumar Sah from Nepal, Nilantha Sapumanage and Gamini Sarathehandra from Sri Lanka and Habibul Rahman Rahmat and Waris Mustamadi from Afghanistan.

The council elected Nepra senior adviser Hussnain Zigham as its chairperson. First meeting of the SAARC Council was held in Thimpu, Bhutan in December 2016 and it primarily focused on the adoption of the work plan and terms of reference of the council. Sadozai further said there was a need to harmonise laws, rules and regulations to achieve the objective of cross-border trade of electricity, adding that the required laws should be framed in line with the existing laws and requirements of system demand, physical infrastructure development, system operation with reliability and stability, economic and commercial aspects including settlements and reconciliation of obligations.

The Nepra chairman said that by signing the SAARC Framework Agreement for Energy Cooperation (Electricity) on November 27, 2014, Pakistan had recognised the importance of the electricity in promoting economic growth and improving the quality of life in the region. “The cross-border trade of electricity also complements the electricity demands and resource endowments among the neighbouring SAARC countries,” Saddozoi said. He said a number of wholesale power markets were establishing in developing regions but certain steps were needed to implement such cross-border trade by ensuring physical interconnection at borders and availability of adequate transmission capacity in the relevant facilities.

The chairman said most of the SAARC countries were struggling to construct their core infrastructure and undertaking additional development of facilities, seeking financial and technical support of leading multilateral agencies like Asian Development Bank, World Bank and Japan International Cooperation Agency for efficient execution of power projects.

He said that multilateral agencies such as ADB, World Bank and JICA can play a role in carrying out feasibility studies, providing financial support and review of relevant laws of the member countries. Saddozoi hoped that bilateral trade of electricity would lead to development of regional power pools where real-time electricity trade would be possible, for which the role of multilateral agencies would be critical in facilitating infrastructural development and design of power pools.