‘Journey of smart pre-payment meter production starts in Bangladesh’
It is such a great news for Bangladesh’s power sector that we are going to set up a smart pre-payment meter manufacturing plant in the country. The plant is expected to start production from January 2019. On October 21, West Zone Power Distribution Company Ltd (WZPDCL) and Chinese Hexing Electrical Company Ltd has signed a joint venture agreement to set up a manufacturing unit in Bangladesh under the name and style as ‘Bangladesh Smart Electrical Company Limited (BSECL)’ for manufacturing smart prepaid meters. Indeed it’s a memorable day for WZPDCL, because with signing of this contract we have stepped forward to manufacture a product which is one of the key elements for all power distribution entities. WZPDCL is a 100% government owned electricity distribution company under Bangladesh Power Development Board responsible for operation, maintenance and development of electricity distribution system in south western zone of the country consisting 21 districts and 20 upazillas. Presently it provides electricity supply to almost 1.1 million consumers covering Khulna and Barisal divisions and greater Faridpur district. On the other hand, Hexing is a Chinese origin smart prepayment meter manufacturing company having three production factories in China while their annual sell is around 20 million metering devices. They have supply record of more than three million digital meters and 1.2 million pre-payment meters in Bangladesh. Apart from that Hexing is operating five overseas JVC or fully owned companies which are doing business smoothly. Bangladesh Smart Electrical Company is formed as a Joint Venture Company with 51% share owned by WZPDCL and 49% share held by Hexing. It is the first of its kind in Bangladesh to manufacture smart prepayment meter under joint venture incorporating a state owned distribution utility with a foreign company. The factory will be set up in Khulna under WZPDCL area. Government is committed to enhance the quality of service to all citizen of the country and this can only be achieved through digital technology. That is why our Hon’ble Prime Minister has time and again reiterated for digital Bangladesh with a view to make the government service available to doorstep of people. Prepaid meter is introduced with this objective to enhance the customer service quality. We have seen that transparency in billing process is being ensured to a great extent through installing the prepaid meter at consumer premises by this time. Though initially customer satisfaction could be achieved partially with the prepaid meter due to certain limitation like inadequate vending facility and other technical issues, but new technology with smart pre-payment meter has removed almost all hassle by now. Consumer can now easily make payment of electricity bills from anywhere using different online payment gates including mobile apps. With this end in view sustainable development goals (SDGs) has set the target to replace 7.5 million existing electromechanical or digital post-paid meter with pre-paid meters within 2020 under 7th five year plan. Out of those target only 1.58 million pre-paid meters have been installed so far and needless to say all of those were imported from foreign countries. Moreover, at present total number of consumer in the country is around 31.10 million all of whom have to be brought under pre-paid meter as per government decision. So, we think that the country has great demand of prepaid meters now and also in future. Considering this facts and figures this joint venture company can play a pivotal role in fulfilling the demand of prepaid meter in the country. We want self reliance working along with foreign companies to upgrade our technology and development our human skill. Obviously this JVC will save huge foreign currency needed for importing meters to achieve the SDG goal within the time frame set by the Government apart from that it will create the opportunity for foreign direct investment (FDI), job opportunity to many people of the country thus alleviating poverty level, transfer latest technology to the country, constant up gradation of technology, sharing research and development with foreign counterpart. All the most consumers of our country will get the meter in cheap price than the imported ones with added advantage of after sale service which is not being possible in case of importing the meters. The JVC will also export the meters besides meeting the requirement within the country which will pave the way for earning foreign currency. However, the greatest challenge before the JVC is initially marketing the product in the country. Government is always kind enough to support the entrepreneur in this regard for which 7.86% GDP growth in the country has been possible. We hope this JVC will likewise get government patronization to sell their product. We also seek cooperation from all distribution utilities, particularly the head of the entities who may procure their meter from this JVC with all added advantage. Of course we are committed to maintain quality of the product as well as price competitiveness in order to get the support from all quarters. We expect government would do its best to save guard the interest of the country as a whole. Last but not the least this smart meter company will play an important role to implement the Vision-2021 policy of the government to make Digital Bangladesh for which the government Hon`ble Minister of Power Ministry, all executing agency in power sector are relentlessly working for realizing Sonar Bangla our father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman dreamt of with the blessing of all we are hopeful to achieve that goal. Md Shafique Uddin, is an engineer and Managing Director of West Zone Power Distribution Company Ltd.
No gas price hike for now: BERC
Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC) on Tuesday declared of not increasing gas prices, announced to subsidize around Tk 3,100 crore in the ongoing fiscal to maintain the status quo. The watchdog body announced its decision at a press conference at the commission office in Dhaka. In a packed hearing room of the BERC office in Karwanbazar, the declaration came amidst surprise; while many terming it a populist move by the government ahead of the election at yearend. BERC Chairman Monowar Islam was present at the press conference also attended by BERC members Rahman Murshed, Md Mahmudul Haq Bhuiyan, Md Abdul Aziz Khan and Md Mizanur Rahman. When asked whether upcoming election has played any part, Monowar Islam said, “We are not Election Commission and we did not think of election while adjusting the gas price.” “The decision was taken basing on the proposals that we receive from the gas transmission and distribution companies and our own methodologies,” he added. The BERC Chairman said the gas price hike proposals from the gas distribution and transmission companies were on the regulator’s chalkboard as liquefied natural gas (LNG) was supposed to be blend with the piped gas—because of which the average price of gas should have been hiked. “It was assumed by the companies that around 1,000 mmcfd LNG was going to be added. But in reality, after much dilly-dallying, less than 300 mmcfd LNG has so far been added. So we did not feel the necessity of hiking the price,” he said. Monowar said, the National Board of Revenue (NBR) decision of withdrawing all import supplementary and customs duties and advance trade VAT (ATV) on LNG also helped them to take the decision of keeping the gas price unchanged. The NBR move implies that 5 percent customs duty and 5 percent advance trade VAT alongside a 93.24 percent SD on LNG is no longer applicable. “So such move by the exchequer has offset the price adjustment needed to minimize the subsidy,” said Monowar. “In simpler words, the average unit price of gas is now Tk 7.19 and we needed to increase Tk 1.46 if those taxes and duties were not waved on LNG by the NBR,” Monowar said adding that a total of Tk 3,100 crore will have to be given as subsidy in the ongoing fiscal now. According to the latest circular issued by the BERC, the industry, captive power, tea-garden, commercial and household subscribers of gas now have to give two months and four months of security deposit instead of three and six. The captive, industry and tea-garden now has to give one-third security deposit in cash instead of 50 percent and 50 percent bank guarantee instead of two-third. In case of pre-paid meter, no security deposit will be needed. Earlier, all the seven state-owned downstream entities in gas sector - six distribution companies, one transmission company - had appealed to the BERC seeking an average 75 per cent hike on the existing gas prices for different consumer groups except the household and commercial ones. The upward price revision was sought for industrial consumers, power plants, fertilizer factories, captive power plants, and CNG refueling stations. The distribution companies are Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company Limited, Bakhrabad Gas Distribution Company Limited, Jalalabad Gas Transmission and Distribution System Limited, Pashchimanchal Gas Company Limited, Karnaphuli Gas Distribution Company Limited and Sundarbans Gas Company Limited. While participating in the hearing, the gas entities argued that as per the government decision they had to submit their respective price hike proposals because of the high import cost of LNG as it will push up their cost substantially. The Petrobangla started supplying the imported LNG to national gas network from August 18 through re-gasification by private sector-operated floating storage and re-gasification unit. Officials said currently 300 mmcfd gas is being supplied from LNG and it will go up to 500 mmcfd in a month or two and then 1000 mmcfd gas will be flowed from next year as per a government plan.