Almost every year with the onset of monsoon season, Bihar reels under the threat of going under the devastating flood owing to increased water levels in major rivers – Kosi, Bagmati, Mahananda, Kamala, and Ganga which sometimes turn out to be a calamity in the region. The flood has been subject to a blame game between Bihar and Nepal and it also get reflected in straining the bilateral relationship between India and Nepal. One thing which is missed out from the context is that natural resources like water does not have a nationality and the same goes with energy as well. Rather than becoming a bone of contention, water can be a major input for power generation and a precondition for sustainable development which can be amplified by developing more hydro power projects in India and Nepal. Tapping hydro power from Nepal shall ensure continuous supply of power to sustain peak load as well as help in controlling floods and providing irrigation support throughout the year that ultimately results in food security and economic progress.
Impediments in the path of energy security
Bihar shares more than 700 kms of its border with Nepal and the agriculture practices in the North Bihar takes a major hit due to continued situation of flood threatening the food security of the state as well as of the nation considering Bihar is often seen as a major agrarian state of India. The floods in Bihar not only hamper the agriculture value chain but also lead to disruption of power supply. Bihar does not have a large installed capacity of renewable power and alternatively it tends to buy power from other states to fulfil its ‘Renewable Purchase Obligation’ or buys ‘Renewable Energy Certificates’ to support the same.
Nepal, on the other hand, enjoys excess hydro power generation with only limited scope of absorbing that amount of power in the monsoons, however it gets a hit in dry seasons where the power generation goes down by three times making this country power deficient leading to regular load shedding and intermittent power supply thereby affecting the overall business activities.
Avenues of opportunities for mutual benefit
Bihar enjoys a good solar radiation and has an immense solar potential which is largely untapped. Due to the low development and investment on this side, the state tends to procure power from other states such as Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, etc. thereby helping in the development of other states rather than its own. Bihar has also been supplying power to Nepal in the same manner in the dry seasons more like a mediating agency by procuring power from the outside and supplying it further to Nepal. It is estimated that energy supply from India to Nepal increases to 200% in the dry season as compared to the wet season; whereas the energy transfer from Bihar to the eastern part of Nepal is only 135% which points to constrained transmission in the radial system.
On the other hand, Nepal has large untapped hydro power potential which points to large investment opportunities for harnessing the hydro power and due to its inherent nature can be fit for supplying day and night with operating more like a conventional power plant. This shall also help in controlling the excess water being generated in the monsoon thereby putting some cap to the flood situation by developing more storage options to be used in dry seasons. Furthermore, it shall help in keeping the waters running in the rivers for minimising the effects of drought situations in Bihar as well.
Putting aside the political agenda for facilitating trade
At the times of climate crisis renewable energy resources shall be shared and should not be restricted within boundaries and therefore it is essential to keep the issues out of the volatile political scenario and further felicitate the developmental point of view. Therefore, the Sub-National renewable energy trade is critical for meeting the aspirational energy demand and helpful in containing the flood thereby strengthening the agriculture sector of the state and keeping the food security and inflation in check to a considerable extent. This shall in turn help in bring more investment in Bihar as well as increase the ‘Foreign Direct Investment’ in Nepal. Thus, sub-national renewable energy trade presents a scenario where reciprocal approach in energy business can promote economic growth and also ensure well-being of the people with the energy access.
The author is Chairman-Renewable Energy Committee at Bihar Industries Association (BIA).