Massive investment in power generation

Published: September 09, 2018 21:40:18 | Updated: September 11, 2018 21:46:52

If investment in education pays the richest dividend, use of capital for power generation should not be far behind in accruing benefits for a nation. On that count, the government's plan for mobilising a $60 billion fund for power generation to the tune of 40 gigawatts (GWs) by the year 2030 may look ambitious but is quite appreciable. A target is already set for creating a sovereign fund of $ 2.0 billion this year. Clearly, the country will need investment from local and foreign investors -both public and private either separately or in collaboration -- in pooling the required massive resources. The country's current set-up of infrastructure in the energy sector will prove too inadequate to absorb the fund and the expected power generation. The transmission and distribution system will need a thorough overhaul along with setting up of new lines for the purpose.

Indeed, there will be a paradigm shift if the right kind of power-mix is to be generated in a most rational manner by using different kinds of fuel. So far the plan is to produce 35 per cent electricity from gas and coal each. It is good to see that there is no mention of fuel oil in this regard. But there is an oblique reference, though, where the private sector's contribution has been cited as 45 per cent currently. It is known that the rental captive power plants now in operation are run on subsidised oil and their emergency service has been prolonged well beyond the reasonable tenure. These are uneconomical and should have been closed down long before. Instead, there was need for putting in place a few large thermal or other power plants. If ordered for construction, such a plant needs five to six years before starting power generation. The power sector got more time than is required. So far only one such power plant has been commissioned.

Multilateral donor agencies have been approached for funds. There is no harm in it as long as a country knows what its priorities are. When power-mix has been praised for its balance with especial mention of nuclear power which Bangladesh is in the process of getting, courtesy of the Russian assistance at Rooppur nuclear power plant. But there is a notable omission of the plan's renewable energy component. In fact, today's world is increasingly favouring the renewable energy for its no-pollution criterion.

Bangladesh needs no inspiration from outside for cultivating more renewable energy. It is credited with installation of the largest home system of solar energy in the world. Solar power is being economically used for irrigation in some areas of the country. The range and scope of this power stand to be expanded further. Mass production of solar panels with government support in the country can further bring down the cost. That it is a pollution-free production process is enough to deserve total tax exemption. Apart from solar power, generation of coastal wind power and hydraulic power also should be explored seriously. A research and experiment wing in collaboration with its foreign counterparts should be assigned to tap the green energy in order to get over the dependence of fossil fuel.

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