Power Crisis : A quick Analysis
Engr. Khondkar Abdus Saleque
Many of our friends and relatives in Bangladesh and abroad and also some of our foreigner friends who follows energy and power sector developments ask us very often why Bangladesh is suffering from such a serious electricity crisis at the penultimate year of a democratic government. Questions become more pertinent when Prime Minister of Bangladesh who is also in charge of power and energy ministry very often claim to have managed addition of over 3300 MW new power over the last three years . PM owned a Power Sector Development mega plan in the middle of 2009 which had plans of making Bangladesh load shedding free by 2012 .It had short term contingency planning , midterm planning and long term planning. It had plan for diversifying fuel mix bringing in own coal, imported coal, LNG, renewable energy in the fuel mix. It had plan of setting up several gas based large power plants also. The mega plan included rising the power generation from 3500MW by 2012 and to 9000 MW by 2013.
In almost mid 2012 short term contingency plan have become unbearable burden. Middle term plan is in limbo and long term plan is still in the womb of uncertainty.
After miserable mismanagement of power and energy sector by corrupt, terrorism patron BNP led 4 party alliance government from 2001-2006 people had no choice but to believe in Mahajote government’s election pledge. They talked about appropriate home works about what to do, how to do in the power and energy sector. But on the fourth year of the government when the crisis has surpassed all time record people now believes that this government did not have proper home work, did not have right vision, did not make proper plan and does not have right professional management to implement major power and energy sector infrastructures. People also believe that this government also did nothing better than 4 party alliance in not relying on professionals. They also went on to viciously politicize power and energy sector management. Its high voltage mega plan in power sector is definitely on the verge of mega failure .
In the name of contingency planning several rental and peaking plants were introduced by the present government to confront the power generation and supply crisis .For a limited period of time there were little other options. If these were properly planned with right economics and proper management this could bring much better dividends. But ruling party beneficiaries thought the crisis as a golden opportunity to make quick money and exploit the situation to their advantage. An indemnity bill was passed to cover the misdeeds of warding lopsided contracts to party favored incompetent developers – first timers. Government made two public sector enterprises BPC and BPWD as sacrificial goats. BPC was made to import liquid fuel from volatile fuel market and BPDB was made to purchase power at a cut throat price. Over and above government had to pay huge subsidy from national exchequer. People knows how much relief it brought excepting bringing quick money for ruling party blessed power sector mafia group and energy sector corrupt policy makers.
The imported liquid fuel based power plants were contingency plants -means a stop gap measure to serve a limited period of time. These were introduced to give some relief till large base load plants were to be commissioned. Two major gas based power plants at Bibiyana Gas Field adjoining areas given to local Summit Group and GE JV is limping for lack of finance. None of the large imported coal based power plant may even start within the tenure of the present term of the government. Import initiative of LNG is almost gone to cold water. Many of the age old power plants are in dilapidated sate . Keeping these going have become a big challenge. Those which are in operation have now become so fuel inefficient that suppl of additional gas is not enough to even keep the present level of generation. Petrobangla also failed miserably to increase gas production and transmission facilities
But these have now become a major problem of the government for the following reasons.
Now let us see why addition of so called 3300 MW failed to improve the situation. Most of the new power came from liquid fuel based contingency plants. PDB always hide the real power demand or have no capacity to maeusre the actual demand. When it staes the power demand to be 650MW there are reasons to believe that national power demand may be now about 8000MW. Against that demand the average actual generation is 5200MW. Given about 20% over all system loss about 4000 MW power remains accounted for. Most of the contingency plant reamin out of operation most of the time as government can not supply fuel. As such about 3500MW deficit is playing hell with power supply situation all over the country. One has reason to objectively analyze what have gone wrong. It will not require a professional analyst to do the work.
Government without any proper analysis and feasibility study introduced the contingency plants and did not care to check the experience or background of the developers. Government also did not check the quality or efficiency of the old, outdated , energy inefficient plants and machineries these inexperienced novice developers brought. Government did not have any financial model of these plants. Fuel purchase and supply impacts on BPC were not analyzed. Neither had it bothered what financial crisis it would create for BPDEB in buying very expensive power from contingency power plant developers. Government did not foresee what financial disaster these would bring to national economy. Consequently many of the developers failed to set up the plants. Those which were set up cannot generate anywhere near to capacity. Impacts of fuel import have made BPI and purchase of high cost made BPDB almost bankrupt. Huge foreign exchange has been drained out creating tremendous pressure to national economy. Now government is forced to keep most of these plants shut down for most of the time. The power demand supply scenario has been worsened even than as it was in 2009. It is major failure of the present government. It has miserably failed to set up major traditional fuel based base load plants and it has failed to explore and exploit own coal and gas to improve fuel supply. It also failed to replace fuel inefficient old plants with modern plants.
In the short term we mean by end 2013 it seems highly unlikely that the situation will see major improvement. Political uncertainty will make implementation of many ongoing projects implementation very uncertain. Power supply crisis has already adversely impacted export oriented industry. About 1% anticipated GDP growth may not be possible.
Democratic government must be answerable to the owner of the country –the people. PM Sheikh Hasina definitely owe and explanation to the nation. Why her hand chosen Energy Advisor failed to deliver. Chairman Petrobangla and Chairman PDB must have done wonderful works. That is why they got extensions of the contract. Then who are to be blamed for the continued diabolic situation?
It is all round failure of the government for which it will definitely have to pay high price in the next general election and beyond.