Bangladesh-Nepal to discuss power trade in upcoming bilateral meeting

A high-level bilateral meeting is scheduled to take place between Bangladesh and Nepal in July, whose agendas of discussion will include bilateral power trade and attracting Bangladeshi investment in Nepal's two hydropower projects.

Nepal will host the fourth meeting of the joint working group and joint steering committee between the two countries in Kathmandu, reports The Kathmandu Post.

"Electricity export and import will be high on the agenda in the context that India also appears keen to assist in promoting regional energy connectivity," said Madhu Prasad Bhetuwal, joint secretary and spokesperson of the Nepalese energy ministry.

Since India lies between Bangladesh and Nepal electricity trade cannot take place without its support.

During the third bilateral meeting between the two countries held in September 2021, they had agreed to develop a dedicated transmission line by taking India on board.

However, no trilateral meeting regarding the issue has been held yet, according to Bhetuwal.

According to a Joint Vision Statement on Power Sector Cooperation released in early April during Nepalese Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba's visit to Delhi, Nepal and India agreed to expand cooperation in power sector by incorporating other partner countries under the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal Initiative (BBIN) framework, subject to mutually agreed upon terms and conditions between all involved parties.

"But it is still a bilateral document," said Bhetuwal. "India has been positive on the issues at multilateral forums such as BBIN and BIMSTEC too."

Currently, there are cross-border transmission lines between Nepal and India and India and Bangladesh. But there are no trilateral arrangements for electricity trade.

"If India helps, there is still a chance for trading of electricity between Nepal and Bangladesh through existing Indian infrastructure too," said Bhetuwal. "But there has to be trilateral meetings and agreements."

And India has already expressed its support to the idea of transmission interconnectivity among BIMSTEC member countries. BIMSTEC is the short form of Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation.

During the third BIMSTEC Energy Ministers' Meeting held in Kathmandu in April, member countries approved the establishment of the BIMSTEC Grid Interconnection Coordination Committee to implement the provisions of the Memorandum of Understanding for establishment of the BIMSTEC Grid Interconnection and its terms of reference.

Bangladesh has already agreed to import 500MW of electricity from the 900MW Upper Karnali Hydropower Project. Indian Company GMR has received the construction license to develop this project.

Meanwhile, the two countries will also discuss developing two storage type hydropower projects—683MW Sunkoshi-3 Hydropower Project and Khimti Sivalaya Hydropower Project—with Bangladeshi investment, according to Bhetuwal.

When the two sides held a virtual meeting in September last year, they had agreed to work together to explore the possibility of developing the Sunkoshi-3 Hydropower Project with Bangladeshi investment.

As per the ministry's press statement last year, the Bangladeshi side was supposed to send a team to conduct field visits at the proposed site of the Sunkoshi-3 Hydropower Project by December last year.

However, the visit was postponed due to the Covid pandemic, according to Bhetuwal.

The project site straddles Ramechhap and Kavrepalanchok districts.

Its feasibility study has been completed but its Environment Impact Assessment Report has not yet been approved by the Nepalese Ministry of Forest and Environment.

Authorities are yet to determine the capacity of the proposed Khimti Sivalaya Hydropower Project to be developed in Dolakha and Ramechhap districts.

"Based on the ongoing feasibility study, its capacity might be in the range of 1100MW to 1720MW," said Gopi Prasad Sah, information officer at the Department of Electricity Development.