The whole world is in a transition of production and use of energy at present. Depletion of significant reserves of fossil fuels, recent conflicts and wars disrupting energy supply and market, environmental pollution and other effects of such energy consumption and of course climate change awareness give a call for a shift towards creating options for generation and use of clean energy in the vicinity of the consumers.
In South Asia, however, the demand for use of energy - whatever may be its sources - is still increasing in line with the respective national efforts to reach non-bio-mass fuel energy and electricity at the doorstep of the commoners to accelerate poverty reduction and scale up productivity, alongside attaining industrial development. Supply of energy and power sometimes not only becomes expensive financially but also turns out to be a challenge given people's adverse locations, especially in remote places and border areas not well-connected to the mainstream development process.
Thus, a large number of people remain deprived of cost-effective and sustainable energy required for meeting their daily needs and earning a living. Even if energy is available, a lack of cooperation and market connectivity raises costs. In the sub-region of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN), there are common challenge of energy supply despite potential sources of renewable energy and benefits of cooperation, especially when the people in each country have shown their resilience and drive for making progress in their lives and surroundings.
A couple of key areas in which these countries and their peoples can break common barriers and make collective progress, remain largely unexplored- to focus on production of local-based renewable energy and also energy-efficient technology. These are the areas where they can also collaborate in terms of undertaking many small projects that can benefit people beyond borders and developing sustainable technologies suitable for the conditions of this sub-region and business growth.
So, instead of just blindly replicating imported technologies that produce or use energy, governments and the private sector players of the sub-region can encourage stakeholders to try and offer solutions that are innovative and meet local needs. Global experience and knowledge can help the BBIN nations to find out their own solutions.
Engineers and businesses, for example, can be asked to come up with proposals and projects to address the unique challenges of energy supply and consumption in a cost-effective and environmentally sustainable manner. Cross-border collaborative efforts can help develop smarter solutions.
For energy mix during the transitional phase from the use of fossil fuel to renewable energy consumption, innovation can be helpful for bringing changes without disturbing the development process and the peoples' habit. Businesses and regulatory authorities may also be prepared by this time for the future energy use and challenges in this sub-region. Such a transition would help national governments and stakeholders to avoid wastage of resources due to potential redundancy of some energy sources and technologies.
Consumers in underdeveloped countries including a major part of BBIN sub-region, often face losses due to use of low qualityelectric and electronic goods, household equipment and machineries. The poor generally tend to purchase cheaper items that consume higher energy and power but do not last long. This problem can be addressed by developing and disseminating energy-efficient technologies through distribution by commercial entities.
Also, pollution caused by the use of energy required for development and industrial activities is affecting living and other conditions in these countries which though have been blessed with unique location in the downstream of the Himalayas, and Bangladesh and India's access to the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. Environmentally friendly technology can help these countries achieve cherished development and keep their environment safe and sound.
Alongside their cooperation in the use of clean energy, the governments can seek global support - financial and otherwise - in protecting the environment of the region which constitutes one-fifth of the earth's population.
In fact, the efforts to ensure better and suitable technologies for supply of renewable energy sources such as hydroelectricity, solar power, wind power and biogas, can also create new business opportunities across the borders.
Research projects may be undertaken to explore new renewable energy sources based on local natural resources in the sub-region. There could be independent national research as well as collaborative cross-border research for developing technologies that can present the best solution to energy-related problems and utilisation of renewable energy sources in the BBIN sub-region.
However, all these require political will and state-level initiatives. Collaborative research and engagement of businesses and other stakeholders with state patronage can create institutions for cross-border energy trade and culture of people-to-people contact within the sub-region for attaining a better future.
This article has been prepared as part of a BEI media fellowship with support of SARI/El Project Secretariat under IRADe and USAID