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Nine year journey towards a middle income country: a score card of power sector

In the recent years Bangladesh has experienced booming economic growth, rapid urbanization and increased industrialization.

Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has declared the ‘Vision 2021’ to turn Bangladesh into a middle-income country by 2021 and ‘Vision 2041’ to be a developed and prosperous Bangladesh by 2041. In 2009, when the AL-led government assumed the office, the nation was suffering from chronic power supply crisis. 

The average power demand at that time was about 6,000 MW 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 generation capacity has increased more than 16,000 MW which is very much at par with the capacity as declared in the ruling party’s election manifesto.

Achievement during 2009-2017

The government of the People`s Republic of Bangladesh is working relentlessly to materialize the `Vision 2021` of the Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Power Division is committed to provide 100% access to electricity to the people of the country by 2021. In 2009, the access to electricity was 47% which is now 83%. It is expected that 100% electricity coverage would be possible much before 2021. In line with the `Vision 2021`, Power Sector’s vision has been set to ensure reliable electricity to all at an affordable price by the year 2021.

The government has taken and implementing comprehensive action plan for the development of power sector. As a result, the rise in economic growth, the growth in the industrial sector, and rapid progress in urbanization has been achieved. The demand for electricity is increasingly snowballing. In the year 2015-2016, 1586 MW of power was added to the national grid.

The progress of electricity generation is also reflected in comparison to the surge in per capita electricity consumption and in the number of subscribers. What was achieved between1971-2009, has been achieved and tripled in the last nine years by the present government.

Achievement at a Glance

The comparative power sector scenario is given below:

Areas

2009

2017

Achievement

No. of Power Plants

27

112

(+) 85

Generation Capacity (MW)

4,942

16,046

(+)  11,104

Maximum Generation (MW)

3,268

9,507

(+)  6,239

Transmission Line

(Circuit km)

8,000

10,622

(+)  2,622

Distribution Line

(Thousand km)

260

420

(+)  160

System Loss (T&D)

16.85%

12.19%

(-) 4.66%

Per Capita Power Generation (kWh)

220

433

(+)  213

Total Consumers (Lakh)

108

274

(+) 166

Access to Electricity

47%

83%

36%

* Including captive

Initiatives taken during 2009-2017

During the nine years tenure of the government a good number of new initiatives have been taken which has resulted a landmark achievement in the power sector.

Cross Border Electricity Trade (CBET)

Power exchange through regional cooperation has been commenced during this period. Import of 660 MW electricity from regional grids from India has started through CBET. By 2021, plan has been taken to further import 3,500 MW of power through regional cooperation.

High Voltage DC (HVDC)

The first ever 400kV- HVDC line has been established to import 500 MW power from Baharampur, India through Bheramara, Bangladesh grid interconnection. The 54.7 ckt-km 1113 MCM double circuit line has been established in 2013 to transmit electricity by converting into high voltage DC from AC and then converted into 230kV AC at the Bheramara station.

Grid Tied Solar Power

The first grid-tied solar power plant in Bangladesh has been installed at Sarishabari in Jamalpur with a capacity of 3MW.

Solar Mini Grid

Hon’ble Prime Minister has inaugurated 400kW Solar Mini Grid in Saskhai Bazar of Sulla Upazila in Sunamganj District on December10, 2017, through video conferencing. It is the largest solar mini grid project in the country and one of the largest solar mini grid in the world. The project is providing power to the marginalized rural population of the remote haor areas in Sunamganj district covering around 1000 households providing grid quality electricity from solar power. As part of off-grid electrification, distribution of solar home system, solar mini grid, micro grid programs have been taken by the government. So far, 45 million solar home system (SHS), 10 solar mini grids have been installed in off-grid rural areas. Government has a plan to install 60 million solar home system and 50 solar mini-grid system by 2018 to cover about 10% of total population.

Mega Projects

Government has undertaken 13 mega projects in co-operation with India, Japan, China, Malaysia, South Korea and Singapore to set up coal-based power plants. The primary work of establishing a total 5,925 MW power plant in the public and private sectors is underway. It is expected that the first mega project of Payra 1300MW will come into operation in April 2019.

Prepaid Metering System

Pre-paid metering system has been introduced nationwide aimed at ensuring easier bill payment with hundred percent collection of electricity bill. About seven lakh pre-paid meters have been installed till date and another twenty-seven lakh meters would be installed within next June 2018. After installation of these pre-paid meters virtually there is no accounts receivable of pre-paid consumers. Moreover, due to introduction of pre-paid meters, system loss has been reduced significantly and also demand at consumer level reduced.

ICT in Power Sector

In order to establish good governance through increasing the quality of customer service, increasing efficiency, transparency and accountability, the Power Division has taken and implemented digitalization of the sector. In addition to on-line power connections and bill payment systems, PMIS and complaints management system have also been introduced. A comprehensive website of the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources has been developed, which is playing important role in social communication and promotion.

Underground System

Government has decided to develop underground distribution system in major cities of the country. The aim is to provide the facility of modern cities with an advance electricity supply system. The government owned power distribution company DPDC and DESCO have adopted several plans to establish underground distribution substations and supply lines to switch to modern-country’s practice of having underground power-distribution system.

Public-Private Partnership (PPP) in Transmission

The government has decided to implement electricity transmission projects under PPP for the first time. It may be worth mentioning here that government initiated IPPs in 1997 during the first term of the Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

The Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (SREDA)

SREDA was established in 2012. The aim of the establishment of SREDA is to promote renewable energy, energy efficiency and to mitigate risks associated with natural calamities stemming from global warming in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh Energy and Power Research Council (EPRC)

EPRC has been established to provide the platform to attract experts worldwide, and help to create in-country expertise through scientific collaboration. It will strengthen and mobilize research capabilities at universities, public/private research organizations, and industry practitioners as well as assist individual entrepreneurs to develop applicable technologies and systems for the development of the energy and power sector of Bangladesh.

Bangladesh Power Management Institute (BPMI)

BPMI has been incorporated aiming to capacity building of the power sector and create efficient manpower for both public and private sectors. BPMI campus will be set up in the suburb of Keraniganj on 25 acres of land of the Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB). The organization has started its functioning last year.

Challenges

(1) Domestic Gas Depletion

Bangladesh was largely dependent on domestic gas for electricity generation while almost 96% generation was from gas in 2009. At the moment domestic sources of gas are becoming increasingly unreliable. Bangladesh plans to increase reliance on coal-fired power generation. Under the proposed PSMP 2016, 60%-70% of electricity generation will be dependent on imported electricity or imported fuel (LNG).

(2) Grid Stability

Transmission capacity in Bangladesh is not growing fast enough to cope up with power generation, resulting in supply bottlenecks in important commercial corridors (such as Chittagong and Comilla). And unexpected outages, like the November 2014 country-wide blackout, perpetuate concerns about the security and stability of the country’s power grid. Power system frequency in Bangladesh varies routinely on normal days between 48.9-51.2 Hz and can go as low as 48.7 Hz and as high as 51.5 Hz under contingency. This is a major impediment to system reliability and also causes a severe economic loss including our-of-merit dispatch.

(3) Distribution Bottleneck

Present capacity of distribution lines in Bangladesh is about 420 thousand kilometers and sub-station capacity is about 20 thousand MVA. Remarkable success achieved during last nine years. But the present distribution infrastructure is not enough to ensure quality, uninterrupted and reliable electricity for all by 2021. Huge number of distribution lines and substations will need to be constructed to meet the vision 2021 of the government. But project financing, up-gradation of existing infrastructure, timely implementation of project, conversion of overhead system into underground system, implementation of smart grid and prepaid metering system and ERP are the major challenges. 

(4) Land availability

A key constraint in Bangladesh electricity-generation development is land availability, be it for coal mining, thermal power generation, utility-scale solar or hydroelectricity. Bangladesh has one of the highest population densities in the world. The World Bank estimates 59% of Bangladesh’s total land is arable, and 11% is forested. With 66% of the population still based in rural areas, this is a key constraint that requires careful management.

(5) Off-Grid Electrification

The vision of the government is to ensure quality and reliable electricity supply for all by 2021 but the main challenge for achieving this target is the electrification of off-grid areas of Bangladesh, where expansion of national grid is highly expensive and time consuming. To overcome this barrier government has taken initiatives to electrify the off-grid rural areas, remote islands and hill tracts by the development of renewable energy resources.

Steps to Overcome the Challenges

(1) Fuel Diversification

Natural gas is the main fuel for power generation in Bangladesh. But the natural gas is depleting day by day. Recognizing the importance of primary fuel for generation of electricity, the Government of Bangladesh has diversified the fuel mix for power generation. Government has a plan to gradually use coal, LNG and other available fuel for power generation besides gas. To ensure energy security, government has prepared PSMP-2016 considering gas, coal, LNG, liquid fuel, duel fuel, nuclear and renewable energy resources. Government has also taken initiatives to import power from neighboring countries.

 

(2) Free Governor Mode of Operation (FGMO)

Potential remedy of grid stabilizations is with the simplest primary governor control scheme. A set of trials with FGMO with limited number of generating units was conducted to stabilize the system frequency with encouraging results. Simple but effective and useful measures like these can provide enormous relief to the Bangladesh system and paves the way for it to grow rapidly over the coming decades. These experiments are also highly relevant for a number of other developing countries experiencing similar issues to systematically explore frequency control measures.

(3) Augmentation in distribution

An integrated power distribution programme has been undertaken to increase the distribution network in order to bring 100% population under electrification as well as improving the customer service.

To ensure reliable, quality and uninterrupted electricity for the people of Bangladesh a strong distribution network is essential. The present capacity of distribution lines and substations are not adequate enough to provide uninterrupted electricity supply to the consumers. Besides, construction of 159km of new lines augmentation and modernization of existing distribution system is required. For this reason, government has taken following programs in distribution sector:

  • Conversion of overhead system into underground system.
  • Implementation of smart grid system.
  • Implementation of pre-paid metering program.
  • Replacement of overloaded transformers.
  • Renovation and overhauling of distribution lines and sub-stations.
  • Expansion of distribution network.

Overall Evaluation

Bangladesh can look forward to a continued period of strong economic growth and development. The power sector should play a critically important role underpinning sustainable development.

A cost-effective long-term investment program that prioritizes clean energy, smart grid and energy efficiency. Increased electricity imports would best serve the country in terms of energy security in comparison to heavy reliance on fossil fuel imports. Through successful implementation of the power sector plans, reliable energy supply will no longer remain just a dream.

These will facilitate achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and also establish Bangladesh as an example for development all over the world as we have shown in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The development of power sector will not only elevate Bangladesh to a higher status but also upsurge productivity which will boost the economic advancement of Bangladesh.

Engr Mohammad Hossain, Director General of Power Cell, Power Division.

           

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