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Uninterrupted, reasonable electricity a challenge for future

The government keeping in line with its promise managed to give power supply to almost every household in the country. 

Now, the Power Division is working to provide uninterrupted and reasonable electricity.   

Power Cell, the technical wing of the Power Division, has tirelessly been working to implement the government’s pledge to this end. 

Its Director General Mohammad Hossain in a recent interview with energynewsbd.com detailed how they are working to help the power sector advance amid numerous challenges. 

  

energynewsbd.com: What are the challenges in the power sector for the new government? 

Mohammad Hossain: According to the Power Sector Master Plan, there are three aims: 100% power coverage, uninterrupted and reasonable power supply. 

We have managed to bring almost all the people in the country under 100% power coverage as yet. 

Ensuring smooth supply of power and its supply at reasonable prices are our two major challenges for the sector now. These will be our future challenges as well, keeping which in mind we will be preparing our action plan and devise a roadmap, too.   

energynewsbd.com: Power Cell is working as a policy-making agency for the government, in the power sector. What are the ongoing works that Power Cell is dealing with?

Mohammad Hossain:  Despite being a technical wing of the Power Division, Power Cell does not have a single area to take care of. We provide the Power Division with technical support whenever it is in trouble. The format of documents like the ones used for Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) and Implement Agreement (IA), enacted in 1996 for the IPP Policy, are still in place. So, these need to be reexamined to check whether they are applicable any longer.

We are verifying whether changes made in the documents are done logically or need further logical moderation. Grid stability is a vital factor in the case of uninterrupted power supply. The documents will mention what responsibilities the IPPs will have, to ensure grid stability.

A number of projects have been undertaken in the renewable energy sector, but not all of them have gone into operation. Only a big 20MW solar power plant started generation in Cox’s Bazar last year. Issues prevailing in the renewable energy sector are being identified.

The IPPs started their journey in the country through a 1996 model document. But the same did not happen for renewables. We worked thoroughly on the IPP documents. If such documents were professionally drafted for the renewable energy sector, it could flourish more. We are going to adopt how the PPAs and IEAs will be in the sector.

The demand of electricity goes up to 12,000MW during summer, which drops to around 3,000MW in winter, meaning that our base demand is very low and so is the 24-hour demand. It is not that the industrial units will remain closed during weekends or just run in the mornings.

Rather it operates round-the-clock and this is what we call base demand. Actually, our system is imbalanced. If the problem is not addressed, it will not be possible to make our system balanced or save the grid.

Currently, we are conducting a study with a view to bringing to the grid the industries run based on captive power. If they see that the grid-connected power is smoother and cheaper, they will definitely come under the grid coverage.

Keeping the matter in mind, we are going to take up a pilot project at Konabari Industrial Area in Gazipur. If we manage to prove there that the gird is still not the same as earlier, the new industrialists will not keep the captive power generation option anymore. The old industrialists will go back to the grid.

During winter, the power demand will jump to 7,000MW. We are doing some institutional work. Even a few years ago, Bangladesh Rural Electrification Board (BREB) used to take 3,500MW, which has soared to 6,000 now. We are also working as to how the BREB can be made more powerful.

The Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) has been divided into a transmission and distribution company. But the BPDB does not have that much ownership in it. A number of researches were done on how to give BPDB ownership, but to no avail. We are also analysing whether the BPDB can be made a holding company, or there are other solutions there.

The Power Sector Master Plan is being reviewed. The government has set a target to generate 79,000MW electricity by 2041. We are also verifying if the transmission and distribution systems are ready for this. There is a need to have a cross-border policy in place, for which we are working as well.

energynewsbd.com: Why is the private sector given more importance for power generation?

Mohammad Hossain: The government is not willing to do business. Rather it creates an atmosphere suitable for business. Electricity falls within the utility service sector which is why the government will keep an eye on the developments it comes across.

In order to expedite the power sector, it needs to engage the private players to a large extent. The generation capacity of independent power plants is around 42% electricity in the country, with the rest belonging to the state-run power plants.

The private sector fulfills half the country’s energy demand. The figures imply that the private sector electricity producers are skilled and performing well. They are rather making us force the state-owned power companies to follow their lead.

This will being in a competition in the sector, also helping get rid of the shortage of investment.  

energynewsbd.com: Discussion is being held for assigning private sector for transmission and distribution like the generation of power. What is the update in this regard?

Mohammad Hossain: The government has taken a decision to assign the private sector with a significant part of power transmission. But there has been no such decision for the distribution of electricity. The private sector has shown as a great success in power generation, relieving us of load-shedding.

If the private sector players are tasked with the job of electricity transmission, a competition among them will start. The practice is already in place in parts of the world.

The way the government is purchasing electricity from individual power producers at a fixed price, it will set a wheeling charge when it comes to power transmission.

energynewsbd.com: Apart from importing electricity, the government has recently started measures to export power. Tell us about a bit on this matter.

Mohammad Hossain: Our plan is to import as much as 9,000MW electricity until 2041. Till date, we have imported 1,100MW power from neighbouring India. Now we are planning to export electricity to Nepal and Bhutan. We decided doing so since our demand for electricity reduces against the generation in winter. Hence, the additional electricity will be exported.

 

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