8th Japan - SAARC Energy Symposium

The 8th Japan – SAARC Energy Symposium was held in NUST, Islamabad from 10th March to 11th March, 2015. The motto of the event was ‘Medium Term Vision for Energy Connectivity in the SAARC Region’. The event was the joint collaboration of Embassy of Japan, Islamabad and SAARC Energy Centre, Islamabad. The event comprised of 6 sessions, all of which more or less conform to the aim of the symposium, which was, as explained by the Mr. Takashi KATAE, Chargé d’ Affaires of Japan in Pakistan, to finalize recommendations and proposals made in the symposium in light of those made in earlier such symposia, as this event was the last and most significant of its kind. Final recommendations would then be sent to senior authorities of SAARC member countries for further consideration.

Mr. KATAE also highlighted Japan’s willingness to strengthen relations with SAARC member countries, this symposium being one of the considerable initiatives taken by the Government of Japan.
Engr Muhammad Shahid, Pro – Rector, NUST and Mr. Muhammad Nafees Zakaria, Director General (S-A & SAARC) Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Pakistan gave their key note addresses. The efforts of Japan in addressing the issue of power shortage in South Asian region were appreciated since it is the primary concern of all SAARC countries and, quite possibly, is one of the very few subjects which brings them to the negotiating table. The fact that the developing countries of South Asia are in dire need of energy resources for peaceful existence and stable economic and industrial growth was acknowledged and significant improvement in infrastructure and energy transmission system was stressed upon.

Mr. Naeem Malik, Director, SAARC Energy Centre, Islamabad made his keynote address in which he said that in view of large financial resources required to install power stations, the authorities find it economical to improve the already present sources of power generation and distribution.

Mr. Kazuyuki NAKANE, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, Government of Japan was the chief guest of the symposium. In his keynote address, he talked about the development in Japan-SAARC energy cooperation. He said that the symposium was initiated in 2006 and is a series of 7 events, this symposium being the last of the series. He said that through the post war years, Japan has continued to contribute to the peace and prosperity in Asia and the world. He addressed the different needs of different South Asia countries with respect to energy sector where some require industrial reform and some lack in efficient transmission systems.

The inaugural speech was made by Mr. Abid Sher Ali, member National Assembly of Pakistan followed by the start of the first session of the first day of the event which was titled ‘Japan-SAARC Energy Cooperation’ and was chaired by Prof. Shigeru Sudo. The first presentation of the session was by Mr. Katsuo MATSUMOTO, Deputy Director General, South Asia Department, JICA. Japan International Cooperation Agency, or JICA is an independent governmental agency that coordinates official development assistance (ODA) for the government of Japan. It is chartered with assisting economic and social growth in developing countries, and the promotion of international cooperation. JICA is currently operating in more than 20 countries and aims to aid developing countries by technical cooperation, grant aid, and cooperation by means of finance and investment. Mr.MATSUMOTO discussed the future of Japan’s ODA in energy sector in South Asia. He informed the audience about JICA’s corridor projects in South Asia which focus on power generation using energy resources, transmission and distribution of power to meet energy demands and reduce transmission losses, energy efficiency, renewable energy sources, and promotion of regional power connectivity in South Asia. While discussing energy sector reforms in Pakistan, he discussed ongoing projects in the region which are co-financed by World Bank and Asian Development Bank and told the audience that JICA in the main supporting donor for 2 of 3 projects in Pakistan. He said that the centre of world economy has shifted from The Atlantic to The Pacific, specifically China. He also discussed the example of Bangladesh with respect to cross border regional power trade.
Second presentation was by Mr. Salis Usman, Research Fellow (Energy Efficiency), SAARC Energy Centre, Islamabad. He discussed the present situation of power and resources and in South Asia. He said that out of the 1.6 billion people residing in the region, 500 million earn less than 1 $ a day, which reflects that despite being rich in human resources, all South Asian countries are energy deficient and all of them import oil. He talked about the SAARC Energy Ring which was envisioned by SAARC leaders in the 2004 summit. Power stressed upon the need for multi-lateral engagements to devise a practical solution to the power crisis. He also discussed the Principles of Direction and Program Activities of SAARC Energy Centre. He proposed possible ways to bring about energy cooperation, which include detailed scenario analysis on regional interconnection, SAARC energy transmission, complete supply chain from generation to transmission, demand and supply profiles, and phase wise implementation of proposed plans. On behalf of his organization, he proposed JICA to join hands for undertaking this strategic intervention.

Session 2 was titled ‘Overview on SAARC Energy Connectivity and Cooperation in the SAARC Region’ and was chaired by Mr. Ahmar Ismail, Director (ETS), SAARC Secretariat, Kathmandu. During his presentation, he said that the mechanics for multilateral cooperation are different from those for bilateral cooperation. He revisited the objectives of SAARC and acknowledged the fact that SAARC has been unable to meet its aims. He told the audience that SAARC Energy Centers have been reduced from 11 to 4 due to ineffectuality. He said that SAARC started working on the issue of energy from year 2000 onwards and the first major step towards the establishment of Regional Power Market was the Agreement for Energy Cooperation signed on 26th Nov, 2014. The agreement divided the potential energy resources into four categories, namely, oil and gas, electrical, renewable, and technological. Since its 16th summit, SAARC has been preparing Action Plan on Energy Efficiency and Conservation. He acknowledged the contribution of government of Japan, Asian Development Bank, and UNESPAC in the areas of regional energy cooperation.
Delegate from Afghanistan, Mr. Shafi Sharifi highlighted the fact that technical and mechanical designs done by private companies in the past do not conform to the climatic and environmental conditions in Afghanistan. He discussed the merits of CASA 1000 and TAPI projects and pointed out the major challenges in the way of regional cooperation which were political instability, financing and credit enhancement, supply reliability, and construction price volatility.

Delegate from Bangladesh, Prof. Dr. Engr. Aminul Hoque reported that energy demand in Bangladesh is increasing at a rate of 12%. He also talked about gas supply constraints and policy barriers being the challenges in energy cooperation and suggested import of electricity from Nepal and Bhutan as a possible solution.

Delegate from Bhutan, Mr. Jambay Lhundup, talked about pursuing efficient energy and renewable energy initiatives, functional regional energy trading infrastructure and mechanism, relevant financing schemes, and sustainable and sufficient deployment of renewable energy projects as a way forward in regional energy development.

Delegate from India, Mr. D.N Raina discussed that some nations need to amend their respective energy electricity laws and regulations like BERC Act, if they wish to be a part of regional power trade. He also said that Nepal and Bhutan are the only SAARC countries which have unambiguous power trade laws. He stated that power sector reforms took place in SA in the 1990s but uncertainty as to whether the policy is to affect a single nation or could be beneficial for other nearby countries as well by means of cross border trade still exists.

Delegate from Maldives, Mr. Mohammad Latheef, delegate from Nepal, Mr. Anil Rajbhandari, delegate from Pakistan, Mr. Rashid Aziz, delegate from Sri Lanka, Prof.K.Kapila C.K.Perera, discussed the potential of technological transfer, benefits of grid connectivity, usefulness of renewable energy and ongoing cross border power projects in their respective countries.

Third session of the event and last session of the day was titled ‘Energy Connectivity in the SAARC Region-From the donor’ and was chaired by Mr. Rashid Aziz. The session included a presentation by Mr. Anjum Ahmad, Energy Specialist, World Bank. Mr. Malik discussed the initiatives taken by World Bank for energy production, transmission and cross border power trade in the South Asian Region. He also talked about the tentative projects in SA for energy connectivity.

The second day of the symposium started with session 4 of the event which was titled ‘Discussion on Medium Term Strategies for Energy Connectivity in the SAARC Region’ and was chaired by Mr. Muhammad Naeem Malik, Director, SAARC Energy Centre, Islamabad. The session featured presentations by Dr. Zuhair S Khan, Head of Department, Centre for Advanced Studies in Energy at NUST (CAS-EN) and Mr. Iqbal Mehdi, Chief Engineer, WPPO. Mr. Zuhair told the audience about the energy related research being done in CAS-EN. Mr. Mehdi discussed the CASA 1000 project and informed the audience that the project has made remarkable progress in the past 18 months and will be ready for implementation by year 2018. He said that the results of CASA 1000 Project might be invaluable for SAARC Energy Centre and also gave recommendations which included the need for a secretariat with full-time executive director, formation of project company, funding for bearing expenses, formation of joint working groups, and pre-feasibility study for Pak-India interconnection via Wahga Border. He also suggested that the documentation of CASA 1000 project may be used by the SEC for energy connectivity.

Fifth session was titled ‘Recommendations for the Japan-SAARC Roadmap for the Energy Connectivity in the SAARC Region’. The first and only presentation of the session was presented by
Prof. Shigeru Sudo. The presentation covered three main sub-themes of the symposium, namely, review of previous recommendations, Japan’s cooperation with SAARC, and medium-term vision for energy connectivity in the SAARC region. He also discussed the energy related activities in SAARC since the establishment of SAARC Energy Centre in 2004 and Japan’s ODA in energy sector in South Asia.

Sixth and last session of the event was the wrap up session and the chief guest was Engr. Muhammad Asghar, Rector, NUST, Pakistan. Session started with Mr. Masayuki Taga’s address. He asked for consent of the participants of the symposium to the recommendations of the symposium which were already shared with the audience. He then appreciated the efforts of NUST, SAARC Secretariat, Embassy of Japan in Islamabad, members of JICA and SAARC Energy Centre in arranging the symposium. This was followed by valedictory address by the chief guest Engr. Muhammad Asghar wherein he discussed the future of renewable energy and stated that energy demand is increasing not only because of the exponential growth in population but also because of the steady growth in industrial sector which puts heavy demands on energy resources. He also said that some political issues of the region offer hindrance to the way of energy generation and trade and need to be resolved on an urgent basis.

Mr. D. N.Raina delivered the closing speech of the event. He thanked the government of Japan for rendering services to the provision of energy in South Asia. He also thanked NUST and participants, delegates, and organizers of the sympo