Daylight lights up evenings
The Daylight Saving Time (DST) measure introduced last month reduced power demand of 150-200 megawatt (MW) in the evenings, easing the persistent load shedding situation by a small portion, according to Power Development Board.
Surprisingly, the traditional peak hours have moved to midnights from evenings. The country's power demand is shooting to its highest peak around midnight to 1:00am instead of the typical 7:00pm to 9:00pm.
"This means that the never-ending power shortage has forced large power consumers like the industrial sector to be innovative. It is clear that industrial consumers are now running factories at late night shifts to avoid load shedding and production disruptions," said a top PDB source.
Consequently, the country is experiencing for the first time, regular power outages at 11:00pm or midnight.
In addition, the gap between peak and lowest power demands has reduced to only 300-400MW from the previous trend of 1,000-2,000MW. Typically, power demands in the mornings remain at the lowest point but PDB's last month's data shows that power demands hover around 3,500MW between 7:00am and 9:00am, shooting up to PDB's highest regular capacity of around 3,800MW after the evening and leaving a huge shortfall.
"This means that either the overall unmet power demands have shot up beyond our projection, or that the people now use power more innovatively," said the source.
The source added that the power shortage shoots up between 1,200-1,300MW when it is a hot day. "But the DST measures are saving us between 150-200MW. It means the situation is bad but not as bad as it could have been," the source pointed out.
New power plants would add 700MW more next year but such addition would not ease the on-going power crisis, which is expected to hit 1,200-2,000MW due to higher demands during the summer of 2010.
New glitches are surfacing in the government's existing plans to address the crisis in the next five years.
"Some policymakers want the PDB to bring down load shedding level to zero in two years. Some ask whether it would be possible to get 1,500MW as rental power next year. The reality is that there are resource constraints and these cannot be achieved," said the top source.
"But we can target 2013 as the year when we can have sufficient power supplies to meet demands," the source added.
In this context, PDB last month proposed the energy ministry four 500MW coal-fired plants, another 125MW coal-fired plant and 11 small one-year rental fuel plants of 750MW capacity. This proposal has got the primary nod but discussion between the PDB and the energy ministry is still going on.
Another official notes, "The government has new power projects of 3,500MW in total in its pipeline which are natural gas based. As there is gas shortage, the government has decided to go for four major dual-fuel plants so that when a plant is not getting enough gas it can run on petroleum fuel. But that poses another problem. Dual-fuel plants charge higher cost and that would put tremendous pressure on the national exchequer."
To illustrate the problem of dual-fuel cost, the official said, "If we use diesel in a dual-fuel plant, the power generation cost per kilowatt hour will shoot up to Tk 13, which we will sell at Tk 3. We can use furnace oil instead of diesel to reduce this cost but it is environmentally hazardous."
Besides, there is no large plant based on furnace oil anywhere in the world due to its technical issues.