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NEW DELHI : Union power secretary Alok Kumar on Thursday highlighted the need to build strategic fuel reserves to secure power supply and avoid disruptions, at a time coal stocks are running low at India’s thermal power plants.

Kumar also pointed out to the need for greater cybersecurity preparedness for the power supply system as technology is embedded in power transmission, a statement from Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) said, citing Kumar’s speech at the inauguration of its South Asia Summit.

With Chinese hackers targeting India’s critical infrastructure, such as power grids, the government has put out cybersecurity guidelines for the power sector. This comes in the backdrop of Red Echo, a hacker group affiliated with the Chinese government, repeatedly targeting control rooms managing India’s critical power grids.

“Secretary power highlighted the importance of electricity, saying it is the major source of energy impacting everybody’s life in a very significant way. Considering this, the goal of government of India is to increase the share of electricity in the energy basket from current 18% to 28% by end of this decade. There is a need to have diversified energy sources—battery storage, hydro, solar, hydrogen end and greater cross border cooperation to ensure energy security in the South Asian region," the statement added.

Cross-border energy trade is a key part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s neighbourhood-first policy, with plans to build energy links to check China’s growing influence. India’s energy diplomacy ranges from cross-border electricity trade to supplying petroleum products and setting up liquefied natural gas terminals. India is moving ahead with its ambitious global electricity grid plan to take on China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

“Talking about the initiative of OSOWOG (One Sun One World One Grid) launched by India, Mr Kumar said that the initiative envisions facilitating global cooperation for building a worldwide ecosystem interconnecting renewable energy resources for seamless sharing —as the sun is always available in some parts of the world for conversion into Renewable Energy and can be used by other countries as an economically viable and sustainable source. He called for building a robust transmission system across South-east Asia," the statement said.

While India has been procuring hydropower from Bhutan, it is also supplying electricity to Bangladesh and Nepal. The plan now is to include the option of building an overhead electricity link with Sri Lanka. India is trying to create a common pool for neighbouring countries.

“Mr Devendra Karki, secretary, ministry of energy, water resources, and irrigation, Government of Nepal, said that a robust framework is the need of the hour in (the) South Asia(n) region— with government support to handle challenges associated with long-term solutions for energy security," it added.

“India and neighbouring countries can collaborate for meeting the energy demand through multilateral framework," Bangladesh power, energy and mineral resources secretary Md Habibur Rahman said.

Speaking at Mint’s annual energy conclave in March last year, power and new and renewable energy minister Raj Kumar Singh said he aims to have a regional power grid and market, which includes Myanmar, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

“Energy security and energy sustainability is important for the entire South Asian region as some form of energy import is required by all the south Asian countries," said PTC India Ltd chairman and managing director Deepak Amitabh in the statement.

“Establishment of a regional power pool may facilitate cross border trade in electricity through diverse portfolios of hydropower, natural gas, clean coal and renewables," added Anil Sardana, CII National Infrastructure Council co-chairman, and managing director and chief executive officer of Adani Transmission Ltd.

India has notified cross-border trading regulations. The proposed market, including Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh, could aid regional peace and improve utilization of generation assets.

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