Loadshedding: The relief assured yet to materialise
The government's assurance of relief from power cuts within September is likely to fall flat as people in the capital and elsewhere continue to suffer frequent loadshedding in sweltering heat.
Moreover, the power cuts have been occurring around midnight over the last one week even though the daily schedules released by the utility companies make no mention of loadshedding after 11:00pm.
Though the situation is unlikely to improve unless the temperature drops, Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC) is set to increase electricity prices by October 13.
During a public hearing on May 18, BERC officials recommended raising bulk electricity prices by 57.8 percent.
Contacted, energy expert Prof M Tamim said the promises of relief from power cuts were based on the assumption that the temperature would drop around this time of year and there would be less demand for electricity.
"The government might have also hoped the transmission line from Payra Power Plant would be completed by September. But that has not happened either," he said.
The Buet professor said the power outages around midnight are likely to be an effort by the BPDB to save on fuel.
During peak hours in September, Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) supplied 12,000-12,500MW of electricity, falling 2,000-2,500MW short of the total demand.
On Wednesday, there were shortages of 1,471 MW in urban areas and 1,606 MW in rural areas, making hundreds of thousands of people across the country endure hours of power outage.
According to the BPDB data, the gap between supply and demand was similar in July, when officials announced that power failures would happen every day.
Hamidur Rahman, a resident of Badda in the capital, said his four-year-old was having trouble sleeping because of the midnight power outages.
"For the last three days, there has been no electricity for 30-40 minutes around midnight. I don't understand why this happens at an hour when the offices and factories are closed," said the employee of a private firm.
"And now I will have to pay more for this terrible service. It is not justifiable by any means."
BPDB spokesperson Shameem Hasan said the exacerbating power cuts were happening partly because the "abnormally hot weather last week" resulted in more demand for electricity to run the air conditioners.
According to the daily outage forecast released by the Dhaka Power Distribution Company (DPDC) and Dhaka Electric Supply Company Limited, the residents of the capital have been enduring outages for 2-3 hours.
But people from different areas of the city report that the reality was much worse than the forecast.
DPDC Managing Director Bikash Dewan said that over the last week, they faced shortages of 300-400MW in peak hours every day.
Asked about the discrepancies between the forecast and the actual outages, DESCO MD Kausar Ameer Ali said the schedule would be changed soon.
GAS SHORTAGE TO BLAME?
Kausar said a BPDB official told him that gas shortage was one of the reasons why electricity generation couldn't be increased.
According to Petrobangla data, about 470 million cubic feet of imported liquified natural gas (LNG) was supplied to the national gas grid on Wednesday. The amount was 540 mmcfd on average in August.
A Petrobangla official told The Daily Star that the LNG supply will remain 470mmcfd -500mmcfd until the government starts buying LNG from the spot market again.
Petrobangla Chairman Nazmul Ahsan earlier told reporters that Qatar had not accepted Bangladesh's request to increase LNG supply immediately.
On July 7, Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, energy adviser to the prime minister, told reporters that there would be some relief from loadshedding within September because three new coal-based power plants would begin operation by then.
But the reality is, none of the said power plants has started operation.