Bangladesh is far from overcoming energy poverty as people lack access to reliable and quality electricity with three-fourths of them still using biomass for cooking, experts said in an online seminar on Sunday.
They said that the government should focus on tackling immediate challenges such as developing a smart power grid rather than pursuing lofty long-term goals likely to result in overcapacity.
‘Bangladesh has made tremendous progress in expanding the power sector but energy poverty is still there,’ said energy expert Mohammad Tamim at the seminar hosted by the power, energy and mineral resources ministry.
While quality and reliable power still remains inaccessible, only 24 per cent of the country’s people use piped gas or LPG for cooking, said Tamim.
A huge number of people rely on biomass and energy poverty cannot be reduced without having ensured their access to modern cooking fuel, said Tamim.
He said that the government’s short-term plan for the power and energy sector should be flawless but that was not the case with the government frequently changing the power sector master plan.
In 2005, the government planned to expand the power sector mainly based on gas but changed it five years later giving emphasis on coal and revised the plan again in 2015 with the decision not to extract domestic coal.
Tamim said that the government also needed to closely monitor how the economy was growing in order to determine the expansion required in the power sector.
Wrong economic growth projections may lead to unnecessary power sector expansion resulting in overcapacity, which is currently the case, he said.
Now Bangladesh has the capacity to produce about 21,000 MW electricity but the demand is largely around 10,000 MW during the summer and 6,000 MW in the winter.
In the 10 years since assuming power in 2009, the AL government invested $15 billion in increasing the country’s installed power generation capacity from 4,942 megawatts to the present capacity.
On the contrary, the investment went in improving the transmission infrastructure during the same period was a little over $1.5 billion while about $ 2.6 billion was spent on updating the distribution sector.
In 2019, Bangladesh paid Tk 90 billion to the idle power plants as 43 per cent of the installed capacity remained unused.
Former Petrobangla director Kamruzzaman presented the keynote paper in which he said that the country’s gas production fell after 2018 and the government diversified its energy source to meet immediate needs.
The government, he said, has plans to increase renewable energy sources and introduce electrified transportation, adding that popularising the use of LPG and CNG could go a long way in ensuring sustainable energy and power.
State minister for power, energy and mineral resources Nasrul Hamid said that the government was committed to ensure a hundred per cent electrification at an affordable price.
‘We will see to it that everyone can afford uninterrupted power,’ said Nasrul.
Prime Minister’s energy adviser Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury said that meeting the need of the people is the first priority of the government.
‘Other things, such as where the energy is coming from, are secondary for the government,’ said Tawfiq.
Tawfiq was replying to experts’ call for concentrating more on tapping domestic energy sources instead of increasing the dependence on import.