Bringing clean and affordable energy to South Asia

U.S. partnerships with India and other South Asian nations are expanding access to affordable clean energy and helping meet rapidly increasing demand for electricity.

South Asia is the world’s second-fastest-growing region and will be a significant driver of global energy demand in the coming decades.

U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Acting Mission Director to India Ramona El Hamzaoui has said Asia is expected to account for two-thirds of the growth in global energy demand by 2040, with South Asia accounting for most of that increase.

“This would mean that the countries in South Asia will need to expand and improve electricity services to meet the growing needs and aspirations of their citizens and ensure energy security for all,” El Hamzaoui said in January 2020.

From 2014 to 2018, USAID brought $850 million in private sector investment to expand access to clean power in India. The agency is also creating partnerships to improve access to energy in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Maldives.

Women and men squatting on rooftop with solar energy panel (USAID Nepal)
USAID helped train technicians in Nepal to work with solar electricity sources. (USAID Nepal)

U.S. investment in India is improving access to energy for 5 million people and helping the country integrate renewable energy into the power grid and implement technologies, such as super-efficient air conditioners and rooftop solar energy.

The U.S.-India Strategic Energy Partnership, launched in 2018, is helping India to meet priorities under its Power for All initiative, including modernizing the country’s energy sector and generating 175 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2022, and to meet a goal of generating 450 gigawatts by 2030.

The United States and India are also partnering with South Asian nations to expand access to power across the region through improved cooperation, private investment and regional power trade.

In October, the United States announced more than $28 million in new activities to advance regional energy markets in South Asia. The projects build on the U.S. government’s Asia Enhancing Development and Growth through Energy (EDGE) initiative, launched in 2018 to further sustainable and secure energy markets across the Indo-Pacific region.

The investments will help bring private sector engagement to South Asia’s energy supply chain, expand transparent and efficient energy markets, and keep the region’s energy leaders on the cutting edge of new technologies and environmentally sound practices.

“Energy is a critical priority for our work in the Indo-Pacific region,” El Hamzaoui said in January 2020. “Through the [Asia EDGE initiative], we are committed to working with Asian governments to find solutions to challenges faced by the power distribution utilities in the region.”

As a part of Asia EDGE, the U.S.-India Clean Energy Finance Task Force employs cost-effective strategies to ensure India has sufficient power to meet its renewable energy goals and daily demand.

Also through Asia EDGE, the U.S. Department of State’s Power Sector Program helps government officials, regulators, and electric utilities in Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka increase energy investments, develop a more sustainable grid, and enhance regional cross-border power trade.

“Despite the many global challenges as of late, our Asia EDGE community is able to adapt quickly with creative solutions,” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Resources Francis R. Fannon said in June. “This only reinforced the confidence of our work together and how we will address the energy needs of the region and thereby our collective energy security.”