Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC) Chairman Monowar Islam said the Commission is working hard to make it a world class organisation by 2030.
This regulator of energy and power sector is going to celebrate its 16th anniversary for the first time on March 13. On this occasion, Monowar talked with energynewsbd.com about its mission, vision, current activities and future plan.
The BERC Chairman said, since its inception, the Commission has achieved a lot of success. For an organisation as large as it is, 16 years is not quite a big period of time. He added, Bangladesh will become a middle-income country by 2021 and a developed country by 2041. The Commission has this target in mind and is working accordingly to establish itself as a world standard body.
He said that to ensure accountability and transparency, BERC is restructuring its whole operational procedures. Previously, it used to have one commission meeting in a month, now the meeting is conducted on a weekly basis. The coordination meeting is also conducted every month regularly.
Monowar said one of the chief responsibilities of the commission is to dispute resolution between consumer or investor with the licensees (of any agency or company in the energy and power sector).
“There were a number of pending cases between these mentioned parties. The cases were being dragged along for a long time. The number of cases that was disposed in last one year is way more than the number of cases being disposed since BERC’s formation,” said the Chairman.
He said that now a thorough supervision is done on the number of cases filed, disposed and pending by the commission. Then the cases are assigned to BERC officials on an impartial basis for their resolution.
“This is how we are working relentlessly to ensure good governance and transparency in the energy and power sector.”
In the same manner, said Monowar, the Commission is issuing license to the applicants of energy, power and petroleum sector on a periodic basis after assessing their applications.
Citing example, he referred to what an investor said recently—that on earlier occasions, it would have needed even two to three years for a license but now the same is being done within a span of five to six days.
“It is made possible as now the officers and staffs feel they have certain responsibilities to accomplish on time,” he said.
The BERC Chairman said one of the important tasks of the Commission is to motivate private entrepreneurs for investment in the sector, providing services and assistances to consumers as well as agencies and companies of the energy and power sectors.
“We are also working for efficient usage of energy. We plan to introduce energy auditing. This is one of biggest challenge in front of us,” he said.
He said recently, the commission needed to re-fix the prices of gas and electricity. Those were done following a certain procedure. The commission hears voices from all stakeholders including the consumers.
“The decisions were made after the hearings. Many might feel discontent about the decisions. Even the agencies and the companies sometime feel that the price increase is not done up to their satisfaction as they are not going to get the tariff which they would have liked. Meanwhile, it is common for a consumer to be unsatisfied with a price increase but a true consumer also at the same time wants quality service. They want a continuous supply of electricity.”
Monowar said, some positive changes have taken place in the commission. A large number of complaints of consumers were pending, those have now been resolved. There were differences among demand charges made by the electricity supplying agencies and companies. Some use to demand Tk 500, some Tk 300 and some even Tk 5000. Consumers used to question these differences.
“Now we have tried to bring uniformity in demand charges. Also billing for the relatively poor is made a bit lenient. Previously, they were charged a fixed charge of Tk 100 even if the bill was Tk 45. Now it is changed, If the bill if Tk 45, only that amount is charged. More than 30 lakh consumers get benefitted because of this. Also the prices of electricity have not been increased for another 70 lakh consumers. That’s a matter of relief for the commission,” he said.
Monowar believes re-fixing of prices has worked as catalysts in ensuring energy security. “Bangladesh is a developing country. If the companies or the agencies do not get the new tariff, then those will be financially weakened. People would not have gotten the electricity.”
The chairman said people have to keep the cost of energy and cost of no energy in mind. The commission has a great role to play in it. “The rate in which we are giving electricity is way more competitive now if we compare it with the rates prevailing in other countries. Even we are way ahead here among our neighboring countries.”
He said in power sector, there were 40 percent system loss but now it has been reduced down to 10 percent. “We are in good position in terms of mitigating system loss if we compare it other countries. But we should not be content about it, we need to do better.”
Monowar said, we have fixed a work plan about our future program. We plan to open unified account system, fix delegation of power among the officers and staff, annual performance agreement and annual training plan. At the same time, we are trying to create national integrity approach and anti-corruption mentality among them. We are giving them training on a continuous basis.
The BERC Chairman said they are working on to establish a permanent office. “There is also a plan in progress to double the manpower that we have now.”