I recently traveled to Kathmandu, Nepal from the 9th to the 12th of this month, to join the inception meeting for the South Asia Network for Clean Energy, contracted to “StANCE”. This is poised a network of the major clean energy industrial associations in South Asian region. The meeting had representatives of associations from Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, as well as an observer from an EPC company in Myanmar; Bhutan, Maldives and Afghanistan were unfortunately not represented. The intention behind StANCE is to set up a body to coordinate between all the renewable energy networks and associations in South Asia; it would also conduct techno-economic studies, financial facilitation, impact evaluations, capacity building, etc to support its network members and their members.
This conference was organized jointly by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and The Climate Group (TCG), with support from CIIE and the Department for International Development (UKAid). This network emerged from some ambitious discussions to bring together all renewable energy and energy efficiency associations from the region together under one network; these discussions were initiated at a workshop organized by CIIE and IRENA, on the sidelines of the International Off-Grid Renewable Energy Conference (IOREC) in Manila, Philippines, in June this year. My colleague Mohsin had written about this workshop previously.
During the two days of deliberations, country representatives presented the current status of renewable energy implementation in their respective countries. Participants then prepared a short- and medium-term work plan for the network, and chose an interim chairperson. Three working groups were set up: (a) policy, regulatory and advocacy affairs; (b) financing and financial facilitation; (c) technology. There were also some presentations from the participating associations, showcasing their achievements in micro-hydro, solar home systems, and wind energy in their respective countries.
This entity will function like a non-profit. The network will start its activities as soon as it is incorporated in either India, Bangladesh or Nepal, depending on legal opinion. The network’s members expect to raise funding and support from international agencies like IEA, SE4ALL, IRENA, multilateral banks, bilateral aid agencies, etc. The specific activities will be finalized and started once the legal incorporation has been achieved. The level of CIIE’s engagement will be decided after the team has seen more activity, over the next few months.
Apart from the meetings, there is little to report on the trip. I didn’t need to go sightseeing, having been to Kathmandu umpteen times in the past 4 years, when I was managing two investment projects in Eastern Nepal. The city was in the midst of a hurried but much-required facelift to prepare for the upcoming SAARC summit. Road signs were being painted and replaced, sidewalks were being repaired, and road works were being taken up, all in a seemingly last minute crisis mode. All my friends and ex-colleagues from the city were expectant about the Summit, and how they were expecting to see the new Indian PM again. Apparently, Mr. Modi left a big impression on the country when he visited Nepal on his first international trip after assuming the PM’s post. The hydropower-rich but electricity-starved country was abuzz about the power purchase agreements signed with India just the week before, a result of Mr. Modi’s trip earlier this. It was nice but amusing to see normal citizens excited about such summits. Having lived in Delhi for fours years recently, I have been mostly used to seeing people like us being rather apathetic about such summits and events, almost contemptuous of the talk shops of these politicians. But the energy in Kathmandu for the SAARC summit was a welcome change.
Let’s raise a toast to more South Asian cooperation, in clean energy and otherwise. Cheers!