With its vast renewable energy potential, South Asia can lead the world in achieving energy security. But sources within the region said it needs technological and financial support from the developed countries before it can tap its rich energy resources.

"Remember, renewable energy is not that easy to achieve. It needs a lot of resources and technology, which the South Asian countries don’t have," Sunita Narain, environmentalist and director of New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment, told in an interview.

The widely perceived "weak accord" that came out of the recently concluded climate talks in Copenhagen, which contained no binding emissions targets, had agreements on transfer of finance and technology from rich nations to developing countries. But critics said it would take a number of years to see them implemented in the absence of a binding outcome.

Some developed countries have already made a mark in the renewable energy sector, using their financial resources and technology.

Denmark, for example, is rapidly capitalising on its potential for wind energy and is presently the world leader in wind energy production and consumption, with 20 percent of its electricity coming from wind resources. Spain and Germany, with 13 percent and 7.5 percent, respectively, rank second and third.

"Today we are not only producing wind energy in Denmark, but we are also exporting wind energy technology to other countries worth billions of dollars," said Jakob Lau Holst, chief operating officer of the non-profit Danish Wind Industry Association, which promotes wind energy.

Denmark’s wind energy success, according to Holst, is a classic example of "turning crisis into opportunity." Denmark was thrown into an energy crisis in early 1970s in the wake of the 1973 oil embargo. "This made us think about creating alternative sources of energy," he said.

South Asian countries hope to move in the same direction, especially in light of their energy requirements and potential. In India, for example, 100,000 villages are still without electricity even as it has a huge potential for wind and solar energy.

According to the Indian Wind Energy Association (IWEA), a non-profit organisation promoting wind energy, the potential of this resource in India is far from exhausted. It has estimated that with the current level of technology, the onshore potential for utilisation of wind energy for electricity generation is of the order of 65,000 megawatts.

Under its National Solar Mission programme, India is planning to have an installed capacity of 20,000 MWs of solar energy by 2022.

According to Sunil Ghose, a senior project manager at Nexant, an international energy and consulting firm, as a regional leader in solar and wind energy, India’s "expertise can be leveraged by other countries of the region by spearheading a regional renewable energy forum."

Ghose, who has conducted a detailed study on the renewable energy potential in South Asia, said that various kinds of resources like solar, wind and biogas-based energy resources are available in abundance in the region."Yet most of the population is either without electricity or have very limited access to energy," he said.

In Bangladesh, more than 80 percent of the rural population has limited access to electricity. He added that while it has a good potential for solar energy, "biomass-based renewable energy is most potent for electrifying rural Bangladesh."

In an interview with IPS, Bangladesh’s environment minister Hassan Mahmud said the country is already "making all efforts to capitalize on the renewable energy resources we have available in our country."

Bhutan, Ghose said, has an estimated 30,000-megawatt potential in hydro-electric power generation, yet it still uses firewood "extensively for cooking and heating in winters, one of the highest in the world."

A huge chunk of population in Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka is suffering despite the fact that renewable energy resources exist abundantly in these countries, he said. Richard Taylor, executive director of the International Hydropower Association (IHA), told IPS that while "most of the hydropower potential is in Asia, a larger part of it is in South Asia." South Asia has a great potential for becoming a world leader in renewable energy in the world, he said.

The IHA advances the role of hydropower in meeting the word’s water and energy needs.

"If harnessed properly, the renewable resources in South Asia can supply a good percentage of energy just after a few years," Stefan Gsanger, secretary-general of World Wind Energy Association, told IPS.

"I have visited India and Pakistan in South Asia, where I could find a great potential for renewable energy," he said. Wind power can supply 30 percent of the daily energy requirements in these countries, he added.

Ramesh Mehta of the anti-poverty Action Aid International expressed belief "the much better and workable option in India and many other South Asian countries is solar energy."

"With about 300 clear sunny days a year, most of these countries get high solar insulation, which can provide them with enormous amount of solar energy," he said. "But it needs huge finances and high technology from the developed world."

Bangladesh knows this full well. "We have set the target of getting at least 10 percent of our energy requirement from solar energy. But we are struggling because of the lack funds and technology," environment minister Mahmud admitted.