BD turns the tables on power shortage

When the Awami League-led government assumed office in 2009, the nation was suffering a chronic power supply crisis. Many industries, factories and business establishments shut their activities in the face of power outages and low voltage. Those days are now gone.

Bangladesh has now attained the capacity to generate around 21,000 megawatts of electricity, including renewable energy. Besides, there are captive power plants in different industries capable of generating another 3,000MW electricity.

The visionary leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and proper planning of her government have earned the country the colossal success in electricity generation.

According to Power Division, currently the electricity demand in Bangladesh is about 10,000 to 12,000MW, meaning, the country has the capacity to supply 9,000MW more than the demand. Bangladesh has now transformed from a power-shortage country into a power-surplus country.

In his budget speech on June 13, Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said, "Currently, 48 power plants with a generating capacity of 16,875MW are being constructed. Besides, contracts for 12 power plants with a total capacity of 2,785MW are being signed. In addition, tenders are underway for six more power plants with a capacity of 650 MW. Besides, another 19,000MW power plants are under planning.

‘The country has witnessed an unprecedented development in the power sector in the last 11 years. And it has been possible due to the real-time sustainable planning and initiatives undertaken by the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina,’ according to the Power Division.

In 2009, the average power demand at the time was about 6,000MW while power generation capacity of the country was less than 5000MW. Eight to ten hours load-shedding in summer days was causing unbearable miseries. Now the installed capacity has increased to 23,548MW (with captive power, imported and renewable power).

The highest power generation rose to 12,893MW (29 May 2019) from 3,268MW (January 6, 2009). The number of power plants rose to 138 from 27. The number of electricity users increased from 1 crore 8 lakh to 3 crore 70 lakh. The transmission and distribution system losses have been significantly reduced to 9.35 percent during the incumbent government’s tenure, from 14.33 percent.

Annual Development Programme (ADP) allocation has increased to achieve the target of the power sector. In 2009, the allocation of ADP was Tk 2,667 crore, Tk 26,032 crore in FY 2019-20.

State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources, Nasrul Hamid had said people did not get electricity before.

“But in the last few years, people's lives have changed as they have better access to electricity. There is no shortage of electricity now. Rather there is a surplus. And it has been possible due to the real-time sustainable planning and initiatives undertaken by the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Now 97 percent of the people have access to electricity. We hope every house will get power supply by ‘Mujib Barsho,” he said.

“Several projects are now underway to improve the power distribution system. Due to these, there are some problems with power supply in some areas. This is a technical problem. Everything will be fine in the next two years,” he added.

Bearing in mind the slogan of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on electricity for all households, the government has set a target to generate 24,000 megawatts electricity by 2021, 40,000 megawatts by 2030, and 60,000 megawatts by 2041.

“There has been a lot of improvement in power generation in the country. Our generation capacity surpasses our demand. At this moment the government must pay attention to the transmission and distribution system to ensure uninterrupted power supply,” energy expert professor Dr Izaj Hossain told Bangladesh Post.

The present government has implemented various projects to set up coal-based power plants as an alternative for natural gas. Some mega projects are being implemented at Payra, Moheshkhali and Matarbari, classifying these areas as power hubs.

In order to build a modern power transmission system, the government made some 70 percent of the power sector allocation for the distribution and transmission in the 2020-21 fiscal at Tk 7,500 crore.

To ensure uninterrupted power supply, the government has been implementing a plan to install 28,000 circuit km. transmission lines and 6 lakh 60 thousand km distribution line through different projects by 2030.

Engineer Mohammad Hossain, director general of Power Cell, told Bangladesh Post the government has achieved tremendous success in the power sector. The country’s power generation capacity has increased around four times during the last decade.

“At that time we focused on power generation to meet the demands. We are now self-sufficient in power generation. Previously, severe load shedding disrupted people’s lives, factories’ production. But the problem no longer exists,” he said.

“We wanted a surplus in electricity generation and we succeeded. Now incidents like load shedding occur occasionally due to problems in transmission and distribution systems. So we are now focusing on improving the power distribution and transmission system,” he continued.

Officials said the state-owned Power Grid Company of Bangladesh is implementing 25 projects for reliable and quality power transmission along with efficient and effective management of national power grid. Besides, it has taken initiative to implement 8 more projects in future.

Electricity for all- a dream come true: The government’s pronouncement of bringing every house under electricity coverage by 2021 is no more a dream, as currently, 97 percent of people have been brought under electricity coverage.

According to the Power Division, some 47 percent people had come under electricity coverage within 38 years (1971-2009) of independence, whereas the current government brought the rest 53 percent people under the power coverage within 11 years, thanks to a remarkable success of the present government.

Bangladesh Rural Electrification Board (BREB) is being given electricity connection to the villages through a programme titled Alor Feriwala by Palli Bidyut Samity (PBS). Officers and employees are moving from house to house to give electricity connections.

Under this programme, the PBS officials provide power to the common people through very easy management by using their vans. This van carries metres, ladders and necessary equipment and goes to houses. In this way, a general subscriber receives electricity connection in 5 to 10 minutes.

Focus on energy diversification: In view of rising cost of power generation with oil and gas, the government has shifted its focus to alternative sources like coal, nuclear and renewable energies in a bid to ensure energy security.

Initiatives have been taken to close inefficient power plants with a total capacity 3000MW in phases by 2022 to reduce power generation cost with efforts to increase uses of renewable energy, officials at Power Division said.

The country’s first nuclear power plant is now under construction at Rooppur in Pabna. Construction work of the power plant with two units, with the total capacity of 2,400MW is going on fast. It would produce and be added to the national grid by 2023-2024. Besides, the government has planned to build the country’s second nuclear power plant in the southern region.

Success in the use of renewable energy: The government's emphasis is now on increasing the share of renewable energy in total power generation. It has set a target to generate at least 10 percent of electricity from renewable energy. The country currently generates 628MW of electricity from renewable energy sources.

Around 5.8 million SHSs have been installed under a programme of State-owned Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL) in the remote areas. The programme has been acclaimed as the largest off-grid renewable energy programme in the world.

According to REN 21 Global Status Report (GSR), Bangladesh has made a remarkable success in the power sector as it secured second position with accessing eight percent power from off-grid solar solutions under the current government.