The immediate past government headed by the Bangladesh Awami League celebrated the ‘
ab’ (illumination festival) sometime ago to mark more than fulfilment of one of its very focused election pledges which was to substantially raise the availability of power in the country. It is notable that when the Awami League led government took over the reins of the country in July 29, total power generation capacity was a little over 5,000 mw with actual daily production being a meagre 3,200 mw . That generation capacity today has crossed 10,000 mw with real daily average production at 5,600 mw, is a transparent indicator of the great and undeniable triumph of the ruling party and government in keeping true to their election time commitments. Such a keeping of its election time promise by a ruling party in Bangladesh is a rare feat as well as an unprecedented development. Indeed, the promise in the ruling party’s election manifesto was to add to generation capacity to make it reach 7,000 mw. Thus, 3000 mw of extra capacity has been acquired which is well above the projection.
But all these things are said not to otherwise detract attention from the unmet requirements in the power sector. For despite raising production to 5,600 mw, the real total effective demand for electricity in the country continues to be significantly not satisfied. This is primarily because capacities to generate a great deal of more power notwithstanding, greater power production to fully or nearly fully meet demand is frustrated by the fact that often the ageing power plants get disabled or idle capacity is caused by shortages of gas to run the plants. In other cases, relatively expensive fuels such as imported diesel and furnace oil are not burnt to run the rental power plants or these are run well below capacity to reduce the costs of power production. There is also the aspect of the rickety conditions of transmission lines in many places that hazard smooth supply.
All these are challenges which will call for timely addressing to make the most of greater installed capacity. Gas supply to power plants will have to be much increased in tandem with other activities such as improving or replacing transmission lines. Therefore, a faster pace must be put on exploration to find new gas fields. Once found, the reserves will have to be readied for production at the soonest. Production of gas from the existing fields should be likewise increased through planned activities.
The setting up of rental power plants to meet emergency conditions ought not to be rebuked as power supply from these proved to be very useful. The rental plants were criticized for producing power expensively adding to the subsidy burden. But these also helped to boost the country’s GDP and maintain the desired level of economic activities. However, the objective from now on ought to be progressively retiring the rental plants and establish larger permanent plants to produce power inexpensively using the local coal resources.
Besides, an efficient plan should be in place to ensure conservation of power by preventing its pilferage and misuse.
MARCH 10, 2014