Energy interconnection between India and the Gulf

On 15 February, the Climate Parliament hosted a virtual parliamentary roundtable with Indian MPs in collaboration with Oxford Policy Management (OPM), in the context of the Energy for Economic Growth (EEG) research programme. This roundtable focused on the benefits of an energy interconnection between India and the Gulf. We were joined by Abhishek Shivakumar, an independent consultant specialising in energy system modelling. Nick Dunlop, Secretary-General of the Climate Parliament, posed a series of questions to Abhishek before opening the floor for parliamentarians to ask questions.

Abhishek highlighted the three main benefits of cross-border electricity interconnectors: 1) lower cost of electricity, 2) reduced emission levels and 3) higher reliability of electricity supply. These benefits apply to both sides of the interconnector. One of the key questions raised when discussing interconnectors is whether creating this link makes electricity cheaper for consumers. Abhishek’s modelling research has shown that, in 64 out of the 75 scenarios, the interconnector reduced costs of electricity compared to current levels of supply from coal/gas power plants. As well as the price argument, interconnectors can also be justified through an analysis of electricity reliability and security. For example, the evening peak in India is from 17:30 to 21:00, with the sun setting on average at around 18:00. This leaves 3 hours of electricity supply that must be carried from somewhere. The implementation of an interconnector with the Gulf Region would provide these extra hours. If you were to extend this transmission lines even further, for instance, between North Africa and South Asia, then the time difference would be even more beneficial. One surprising finding of Abhishek’s research was renewable energy could also be a major export opportunity for India. During the monsoon months when there are copious hydropower resources, there would be a surplus that could be traded to the Gulf when needed. India is uniquely positioned to benefit from this kind of electricity interconnectors and has the potential to become a hub for trading renewable energy.

One of the questions raised by the parliamentarians was around the issue of national security when it comes to relying on other countries for electricity supply, as any cross-border infrastructure requires cooperation between at least two countries. Abhishek stated that, given that the relations between India and the Gulf are fairly stable, this is a suitable location for the interconnector. Additionally, Nick argued that, in a world powered by renewable energy, India will have far greater energy security than it has now. Currently, most countries are reliant on relatively small parts of the world where oil resources are located. In a renewable energy-powered economy, most of India’s energy will come from India itself. However, interconnectors are needed to ensure that the resources are reliable all year round. If a country develops tensions with India and decides to cut off its energy trade, then this opens opportunities for other countries to trade with India: the country that cuts off trade is the one that loses money and becomes isolated.

The roundtable was concluded by encouraging members of parliament to encourage their ministers and heads of government to push the Green Grids Initiative – One Sun One World One Grid. The solution to the problem of climate change is speed and scale; cross-border interconnections are a key part of the infrastructure needed to transition to a net-zero world.