More steps mulled to cut power demand

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The power outages the people are enduring nationwide could go on until September, and the government may change office and school hours and reintroduce home office to reduce electricity demand.

A meeting of high officials of the energy and power divisions came up with such recommendations for the government yesterday.

According to the officials, the government forecast of 14,500MW of daily power demand for September could be reduced to at least 12,500MW if the recommendations were implemented properly.

Use of decorative lights for social events and at shopping malls, shops, and homes has already been banned.

The decision to close all malls, shops and kitchen markets by 8:00pm every day will be enforced strictly after Eid.

The meeting also recommended setting the thermostats at 25 degrees Celsius at every government office, reducing the use of air conditioners at religious establishments, and wrapping up social events like weddings by 7:00pm.

Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, prime minister's energy adviser, said, "The decision on school hours will be made by the education ministry."

Briefing journalists after the meeting, held at the Prime Minister's Office, he said they failed to find alternatives and that the load shedding would continue at least until September.

After September, three coal-based power plants will come into service, he added.

He said, "… this crisis can be overcome with collective efforts. Everyone should act responsibly and maintain austerity to reduce the consumption of electricity."

He said government officials could go for "home office" once or twice a week.

Asked how long the power cuts would be in certain areas of the country, he said, "We now have a shortage of 500MW."

Implementing the prime minister's directive of scheduled load shedding would be tough, Tawfiq said, adding that the Dhaka Power Distribution Company has a mobile app on load shedding.

"We are working on a formula to let consumers know about load shedding beforehand," he added.

Power rationing started on June 30 as power plants started getting less than required natural gas.

The country has decided not to buy LNG from the international spot market because of high prices and this has caused a gas-supply shortage.

Bangladesh has a capacity to generate 22,348MW -- around 52 percent of it from gas-based power plants, 27 percent from furnace oil-based, 5.86 percent from diesel, 8.03 percent from coal, 1 percent from hydro, 0.5 percent from other renewable energies, and 5.27 percent is imported, according to Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) data.

Replying to a query, Tawfiq refuted the allegation that the government had prioritised LNG imports over local gas reserves.

"Gas production was 1,800 mmcfd [million cubic feet a day] earlier and it is now over 2,700 mmcfd. We trust Petrobangla and Bapex officials, the geologists and engineers are also experts … they are taking all measures to increase gas production," he added.

State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid yesterday again hinted at hiking fuel prices.

"The oil that we used to buy for $70-$71 has now become $171 and it's always going up," he said in an audio message to the media.

"…Using our own money, we have been giving subsidies. It seems, we have to go for price adjustments at some point," he added.

The day before yesterday, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said the price of furnace oil was only $708 per tonne before the Russia-Ukraine war and now it is $1,080 per tonne. LNG was $10 per MMbtu and it is now $38. Coal prices rose to $278 a tonne from $187 and diesel $130 a barrel from $80.