A four-day public hearing on proposed steep raise in gas tariffs starts on March 21 as the energy regulator allegedly overlooks protests from businesspeople and rights groups.
The Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC) has arranged the hearing to justify tariff-hike proposals for all types of consumers, including households, by around 117.41 per cent.
A senior BERC official says the proceedings are set to kick off with presentation from state-run Petrobangla in support of the hike.
All the state-run gas-marketing and-distribution companies, namely Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company Ltd (TGTDCL), Bakhrabad Gas Distribution Company Ltd (BGDCL), Jalalabad Gas Transmission and Distribution Company Ltd (JGTDCL), Karnaphuli Gas Distribution Company Ltd (KGDCL) and the Pashchimanchol Gas Company Ltd (PGCL) and Petrobangla, have sought to more than double gas tariffs for all consumers on grounds of high-priced import of liquefied natural gas (LNG).
Businesspeople, including the country’s apex trade body – the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI)–Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA) and the Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) protest the gas-tariff-hike move.
The CAB, a platform to protect the interests of consumers, terms the hike proposals ”illogical” and demands a ban on LNG import.
Instead, the protesters and economists suggest speedier exploration of natural gas as huge reserves are eyed in offshore hydrocarbon turfs.
The state-run gas companies have submitted proposals separately to the energy regulator for an across-the-board raise in the weighted average natural gas price by 117.41 per cent to Tk 20.35 per cubic metre from the existing rate of Tk 9.36.
For household consumers having single-burner stoves, the gas firms propose to raise the monthly charge to Tk 2,000 from the existing Tk 925 per month, while for double-burner users to Tk 2,100 per month from Tk 975.
The BERC last jacked up the gas tariffs by 32.8 per cent on average with effect from July 1, 2019, in the biggest-ever hike so far. The gas firms have proposed to raise tariffs for industrial consumers to Tk 23.24 per cubic meter from Tk10.70.
They want to raise tariffs for metered household consumers to Tk 27.37 per cubic metre from existing Tk 12.60 per cubic meter.
Natural-gas tariffs for power plants and fertiliser factories have been proposed up to Tk 9.66 per cubic metre from Tk 4.45.
For captive power plants they proposed new rate at Tk 30.09 per cubic meter from existing Tk 13.85.
The gas companies seek to raise the compressed natural gas (CNG) price in retail level to Tk 76.04 per cubic meter from Tk 35.
Gas tariffs for small and cottage industries have been proposed at Tk 37.02 per cubic metre in a steep rise from Tk 17.04. For hotels and restaurants the gas firms have proposed to hike tariffs to Tk 49.97 per cubic metre from Tk 23.0.
The gas-marketing and-distribution companies have sought to hike tariffs for tea estates to Tk 23.24 per cubic meter from existing Tk 10.70.
Before July 2019, the BERC previously had raised natural gas tariffs by 22.70 per cent on average for the consumers in March 2017.
In September 2015, the commission had hiked the average gas tariffs by 26.29 per cent. Previously, the tariffs were hiked by 11.22 per cent in 2009.