Addressing the energy trilemma in the Greater Mekong Subregion
Regional power connectivity – in the context of this think-piece – refers to fully interconnected national electricity systems that enable the trading of electricity across countries (regions), facilitated by harmonised regulatory arrangements that ensure coordination in the operation (for example, generation scheduling and dispatch, and congestion management) and planning (such as long-term supply adequacy) of a regional electricity system.
It is considered as a key option for addressing the energy trilemma between energy decarbonisation, supply security, and affordability.
Through a historical analysis of the evolution of power connectivity in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS), the think piece develops the argument that regional power connectivity is a complex undertaking, shaped by a host of mutually interacting and unpredictably reinforcing influences.
In such settings, a natural strategy for policymakers to promote regional power connectivity is to remain focused on issues that are contained within the immediate confines of the electricity industry, such as insufficient infrastructure, lack of technical competence, and uncoordinated regulation. This is especially true when limited resources and tight deadlines combine to make a broader policy debate impractical.
Though useful, this approach towards regional power connectivity has failed to appreciate the influence of wider geopolitical and socio-economic contexts that have historically provided the impetus for regional power connectivity. It could produce policies that work initially. But these policies usually fail to progress power connectivity to a higher level. All too often such policy failure is attributed to some proximate external events rather than to shortcomings in the policy approach itself.
Therefore, the first essential step to deepening regional power connectivity is to broaden the debate on regional power connectivity to go beyond industry-specific issues to look at the interactions between regional power connectivity and the wider geo-political, socio-economic, and cultural contexts.