Enhance use of energy mix to boost power sector: experts
The success of the power sector depends on ensuring access to electricity, cost reduction, demand side management and enhancing use of non-conventional cleaner, renewable energy for power generation, experts told a virtual dialogue yesterday.
Titled "Reflections of the power sector in the upcoming eighth Five-Year Plan: perspectives on strategies and initiatives", the dialogue was organised by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD).
The government took various programmes under the Seventh Five-Year Plan to improve the power situation and 80 per cent of it has been achieved, CPD Research Director Khondaker Golam Moazzem said in his keynote presentation.
Despite a rise in generation capacity, the programmes could not be implemented 100 per cent as the transmission and distribution system were not improved properly, he said.
The government had to pay around Tk 28,980 crore as about 37.5 per cent of the capacity remained unused at that time, he said.
"That is why capacity payment has been increasing over the years -- from Tk 5,003 crore in fiscal year 2015 to Tk 8,929 crore in fiscal year 2019."
This has forced the government to allocate resources to finance the deficit and the capacity payment is almost equivalent to the amount of subsidy taken from the government in fiscal year 2019, Moazzem said.
He also suggested that an alignment of the demand projection should be made by the upcoming Power System Master Plan 2021 where other policy documents will be highly important.
The energy mix, which is highly reliant on fossil fuels, should be gradually rebalanced with the setting up of renewable energy based projects, he said.
He also said the eighth five-year plan should highlight appropriate mechanisms to lessen the fiscal pressure, huge import payments and debt burden caused in case of different power sector related activities.
"The goals set in the eighth five-year plan are too far from the reality," said M Shamsul Alam, dean of the engineering faculty of Daffodil International University.
The major part of the seventh five-year plan on renewable energy has not been achieved during this time, he said.
"Officials of the power sector have awarded projects to companies they favour without calling tenders to serve their own interests. In many cases, tender offer conditions were set such it could not be met by anyone other than the company of their choice."
The government is focusing on renewable energy by reducing dependence on coal, gas and oil for power generation, said Mohammad Alauddin, chairman of the Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority.
Considering the various challenges in Bangladesh, it is not possible to rely on renewable energy right now, he said.
"However, the government is working hard on the use of solar energy by installing solar panels on roofs. Plans are also underway to import hydropower. We think that the wind power can be an alternative source and we are conducting more research on these matters."
The presence of a "capacity charge" is causing the government to pay out Tk 176 per unit to some power plants for their idle capacity, he said. In comparison, the average per unit cost excluding the capacity charge of the past five years is estimated at just Tk 5.91.
The government is also planning on finding ways on how to reduce prices in these sectors and several attempts are also being made to overcome the excess cost that the government is spending on capacity charges, he said.
Mohammad Hossain, director general of Power Cell under Power Division, said the government has put emphasis on exchanging energyinstead of just importing energy on the basis of regional cooperation with India and Nepal.
He also said the government was taking due measures in addressing rising cost, inefficiency and higher financial burden on the power sector.
While moderating the session, CPD Distinguished Fellow Mustafizur Rahman said the power and energy sector has now moved into a second generation of problems, from concerns regarding electricity generation to that on pricing and suitable energy mix.