Dr. Vaibhav Chaturvedi was invited to the ADB-CII conference to chair a panel discussion on 'Energy Security and Power Trade'. The experts on the panel included Dr. SC Sharma (OSD Petroleum, Planning Commission, GoI), Mr. Tun Lean (Under Secretary of State, Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy, Combodia), Mr. Hideaki Iwasaki (Principal Infrastructure Specialist, Southeast Asia Department, ADB), and Mr. Andrew Jeffries (Principal Energy Specialist, Southeast Asia Department, ADB). Vaibhav started the discussion by noting that Energy security is a key policy concern for the Government of India and there are different dimensions to this issue. However, given the context of the conference, the overarching aim of the session is not to discuss the general issues related to energy security, but to bring out the prospects for enhancing energy security for India and Greater Mekong region countries (GMRC) through enhanced cooperation between these regions. Dr. Chaturvedi set up three key objectives of the discussion- to discuss the prospects for integration of energy markets between India and GMRC; to assess the energy cooperation requirements; and to understand the implications of climate change concerns. After initial thoughts by the four panellists, the chair and panel were involved in interesting discussion on issues related to the objectives highlighted earlier. The key insights of the panel discussion, as highlighted by Dr. Chaturvedi during session conclusion, were as follows-
• Cross border energy trade is based on the idea that one partner is energy surplus while the other is energy deficient . However all the countries in GMRC region and India are energy deficient, which constraints the opportunities for cross border trade in the near future. However, there is power trading of 17000 GWh already happening within the GMRC and so we can be optimistic about the opportunities in the future.
• Seasonality issues can help power trade especially hydropower. A participant from Myanmar highlighted that Myanmar will be ready to export hydropower to other countries during rainy season in five years from now.
• Issues related to operationalization of cross border power trade will be a critical challenge. These would include the legal issues, regulatory framework, licensing procedures, etc. Clarity of domestic policies of the participating regions will be a key to make or break opportunities for involving the private sector in any cross border interlinkages. Private sector participation was seen as a key for the success of cross border energy trade.
• Energy cooperation and trade will also be dependent on and gain from the overall development in the relationship between India and GMRC, and building of long term trust between these regions will be crucial.
• Climate change mitigation concerns are most likely to complicate the issue and accounting of emissions from cross border power trade can be debatable.
• Finally, there are some avenues where complementarities exist and both regions can gain. One of these is biofuels. India has an ambitious target of biofuel blending, and water has come up as an important constraint for biofuel crops. The GMR countries are largely water surplus and have good potential for biomass. This is one possible area of cooperation. Also knowledge sharing of India's efforts and success on the regulations related to energy efficiency is something through which the GMRC can also gain.