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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Interconnection of South Asian Region Electricity Grid as a Leverage Point for Sustainable Development

This paper investigates the possibility of CO2 emissions reduction from the electricity grid of the South Asian Region (SAR) by leveraging interconnection between the national electricity grids of the region. To achieve this, CO2 emissions from the SAR electricity sector between 2020 and 2050 are quantified, and changes in CO2 emissions are measured in line with changes in cross-border electricity trade between countries, with and without CO2 pricing. The paper further calculates the financial gains to the regional countries from these interconnections and discusses the implications for the sustainable development of the region.

The SAR has eight countries and is inhabited by 1.8 billion people. The average per capita electricity consumption is ~760 kWh, which is expected to rise to ~4000 kWh by 2050. Fossil fuel-based electricity is ~80% of the total, with an average grid emission factor (GEF) of ~0.7 tCO2/MWh. In this context, it is necessary that the GEF of the region be reduced drastically by 2050 in order to reduce overall CO2 emissions.

To determine CO2 emissions changes and financial gains, this paper uses a modelling methodology. This modelling projects national electricity consumption at 6% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2020 to 2050, based on analysing annual demand growth for the region between 2004 and 2018. The GEFs of regional countries are then calculated, on a year-on-year basis, from their projected installed capacity each year. Based on these GEFs, the CO2 emissions reduction in electricity-countries is calculated under different scenarios. Furthermore, this modelling framework also calculates the cumulative financial benefits for electricity-trading countries based on the difference in their electricity tariffs, capacity payments and reductions in investment in new power plants.

Modelling results suggest that, in the SAR, the quantity of cross-border electricity trade and CO2 emissions are inversely proportional to each other between 2020 and 2050. The CO2 emissions reduction is higher in a Free Electricity Market scenario in the region than under Bilateral Power Purchase Agreements between the regional countries. It has been further established that, at 10% cross-border electricity trade in the region in a Free Electricity Market scenario and $30/tonCO2 pricing, cumulative CO2 emissions from the SAR electricity grid can be reduced by 45% between 2020 and 2050. This is in addition to ~$1.7 trillion in cumulative financial gains to the region.

This research identifies quantitative gains and presents concrete opportunities for regional policy makers to overcome possible barriers in the way of regional electricity trade. Further research may focus on the technical and political feasibility of a regional power pool in the SAR. Researchers may wish to consider political and climate change risk reduction analysis associated with an extension of the SAR power pool.


Course Overview



The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.