ISGF Report Supports Interlinking of Grids in GCC, SAARC & ASEAN area

A new report entitled ‘Interconnection of Regional Grids of ASEAN, SAARC/BIMSTEC and GCC Regions’, released by India Smart Grid Forum (ISGF), argues that myriad benefits are to be gained from interconnecting smaller power systems — the GCC, SAARC/BIMSTEC and ASEAN region in particular — to form a large power pool or regional grid in terms of efficiency, economy, reliability and resilience.

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ISGF is a public private partnership initiative of Ministry of Power (MoP), Government of India, for the accelerated development of smart grid technologies in the Indian power sector. It was set up in 2010 to provide a mechanism through which academia, industry, utilities and other stakeholders could participate in the development of Indian smart grid systems and provide relevant inputs to the government’s decision-making.

The study also attempts to identify all the activities and tasks to be completed to ascertain the feasibility of interconnecting the regions. It concludes that such an interconnection between the three mentioned regions will be advantageous for all the nations within the Pan Asia Grid.

The paper begins with a historical overview of grid-interlinking, or lack thereof, within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)/ Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region: Two decades ago, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) mooted the idea of the interconnection of electricity grids in South Asia and Southeast Asia and supported the feasibility studies for interconnections and prepared masterplans for SAARC Grid and ASEAN Grid. In South Asia, the Indian grid is already connected to the grids of Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. Interconnection with Sri Lanka is also proposed through undersea cables which is likely to happen in the near future. These interconnections have benefitted all the nations in the region.

Almost during the same time, the countries in the Arabian Gulf region made the master plan for a common grid for the GCC, interconnecting Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE and Oman. This interconnector has been in operation for the last ten years and is maintained by Gulf Cooperation Countries Interconnection Authority (GCCIA).

ASEAN established the electricity interconnecting arrangements within the region through the ASEAN Power Grid (APG) under the ASEAN Vision 2020 adopted in the Second ASEAN Informal Summit in Kuala Lumpur.

Between the eastern parts of ASEAN Grid to the western end of the GCC Grid, there is a 5-hour time zone difference which can be leveraged efficiently in the interconnected operations. As solar generation diminishes and evening peak starts in ASEAN region, solar generation will be at its peak in ASEAN and GCC regions.

Later when evening peak load increases in western parts of India and GCC region, the base load plants in ASEAN grid could support. Also, the morning peak in ASEAN can be supported by base load plants in the SAARC/BIMSTEC region. In a way, the plan is a smaller version of PM Modi’s OSOWOG (One Sun, One World, One Grid ) exhortation, that seeks  to build an uninterrupted grid based on solar energy across countries.

The report highlights that this manner of interconnected operations not only integrates renewables, but also efficiently operates base load plants in all the regions. The hydro generation in SAARC and ASEAN could also improve the power quality in GCC grid when there will be tens of gigawatts of solar generation in GCC nations. The interconnection could also have the potential to reduce fossil fuel consumption in these regions through sourcing clean solar, wind and hydel power.

The study also emphases that the cost of interconnecting the regions would be much less than the cost of addition of the required capacity, both yielding the same ultimate result. The money can then be utilized for other developmental activities. A vibrant power market can be established in the interconnected region. A properly designed power market, can lead to the maximization of the benefits of Interconnecting the three regions.

The report outlines a few steps to be followed next: Initial deliberations between different stakeholders have been initiated on the feasibility of potential interconnections between India and Myanmar as well as India and Oman. However, no feasibility studies have been taken conducted yet.

If the buy-in of all stakeholders on this idea of an interconnected grid between these three regions can be achieved, then the concept can be further taken ahead by conducting first a Pre-Feasibility Study and based on the same, a detailed feasibility study for the potential interconnections needs to be conducted. Once the feasibility study is over and a Detailed Project Report (DPR) is prepared, the actual erection of the interconnectors can start.

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Soumya Duggal

Soumya is a master's degree holder in English, with a passion for writing. It's an interest she has directed towards environmental writing recently, with a special emphasis on the progress being made in renewable energy.