SE Asia body proposes ‘energy centre’

Burma will soon host the signing of a memorandum heralding the start of a Southeast Asia regional ‘energy centre’, to be based in India.

The move was announced by the seven-member Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), which is currently chaired by Burma.

A spokesperson for Thailand’s energy ministry, also a member of the grouping, told DVB that the centre will strive “to serve member countries on energy information sharing, knowledge and technology transfer, and program and project coordination to promote development of sustainable energy use within the BIMSTEC region”.

The remaining member countries are Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka. India had held the rotating chair until December last year.

A Memorandum of Association will be signed in Burma “within the next three months, probably in July 2010”, the spokesperson said.

The announcement follows the second BIMSTEC energy ministers in Bangkok on 5 March. It comes after a series of projects aimed at regional integration and economic cooperation, with India competing for a stake in Burma’s mineral wealth.

The memorandum has seven elements, according to the Thai energy ministry spokesperson.

These include a “trans-power exchange and development project, trans-BIMSTEC gas pipeline, hydro-potential of BIMSTEC, non-conventional source of energy, energy efficiency, energy security, data management and research and analysis in the direction of energy”.

On 1 March the Indian external affairs ministry announced that meetings between Indian foreign secretary Smt. Nirupama Rao, and Burma’s deputy foreign minister, U Maung Myint, had discussed gas, oil and the energy sector.

“The Myanmar [Burma] side welcomed the additional investment of $US1.1 billion by ONGC [Oil and Natural Gas Corporation] and GAIL [Indian natural gas company] in oil blocks in Myanmar for gas field development and upstream projects,” a ministry statement said.

“Both sides agreed to strengthen cooperation in this field.”

The centre is expected to go into construction two years after the signing of the memorandum of association.