Strategy for more electricity | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 05, 2011 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, April 05, 2011

Strategy for more electricity

Photo: wahid adnan/drik news

The reader may question the need for a new and updated strategy for development and the necessity of a suitable electricity system in this country. Although there are numerous discussions and papers on shortage of electricity, load shedding and associated matters, by and large we have failed to involve public representatives, members of parliament, intelligentsia and the major electricity consumers.
In a poor, over-populated country with very small reserve of natural resources, it is not possible to adequately meet the requirements of important sectors like population control, agriculture, health, disaster management and electricity sector development. However, a sound electricity system is unavoidable for employment generation and value addition and to support development activities, including agriculture and food production. It is imperative that the matter be studied and discussed in the parliament, and the people must get the opportunity to participate in the discussions to find a suitable model for our electricity development.
Various sporadic measures were taken to overcome load-shedding and improve power generation. In spite of several efforts over the last several years it has not been possible so far to commence coal mining at prospective sites. The only coal mine at Barapukuria is operating at reduced capacity and a new contractor is yet to be appointed.
For various constraints it has not been possible to finalise a coal policy. Once the policy is adopted and generally accepted by the people, it may be possible for a consortium to undertake coal mining. It seems that acceptance of a coal policy is going to be rather difficult, leading to inordinate delay in awarding the work on exploration and mining of coal.
Operating large and efficient steam power plants through import of coal is a gigantic task, because enough coal to meet the need of the power plants is not available in the Asian region. The two giants, China and India, require a very large quantity of coal, and they already entered
into long-term contracts with Australia, Indonesia etc. to import coal. Vietnam has installed large coal-fired steam power plants because it also needs to import coal.
We have developed a large number of gas fields through Petrobangla/Bapex or through foreign investors. Apparently, this was done without a gas policy. It is about time to consider awarding one or two blocks of coal field to Petrobangla with experienced foreign associates to explore and mine coal without further waiting to finalise the policy. Time is running out and the country is going to face an acute shortage of fuel to generate electricity.
Foreign remittance from our expatriates is reducing, and is not likely to increase at the rate of our requirement of various imports like food, machinery, edible oil etc. During the last few months our foreign exchange reserve depleted very rapidly. As such, we may not have enough foreign exchange to import the huge quantity of fuel oil needed for power generation.
It is a very good development that both the government and the opposition members are attending Parliament sessions. We do not know how long such a congenial situation will continue. Let us take advantage of the present opportunity and submit a well-prepared paper to all members of the parliament at least one month before discussions. Let the various pros and cons be discussed in the parliament to formulate an acceptable strategy for power development.
This is such an important matter that any further delay may create a very difficult situation for us.

The writer is a former Chairman, Bangladesh Power Development Board.

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