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Master plan revision on the cards

Power demand-supply mismatch forces govt to take initiatives


M AZIZUR RAHMAN | Monday, 14 September 2020


The widening gap between the country's overall electricity generation capacity and demand has forced the government to revise the Power System Master Plan, or PSMP, two years after its adoption.

A senior Power Division official under the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources, or MPEMR, said it has initiated work on crafting a revised master plan by 2021.

The previous plan was initiated in 2016, but was adopted after its finalisation in 2018.

The country's electricity demand during the current summer is hovering below half the total generation capacity of around 9,600 megawatts, or MWs during day peak hours and around 59 per cent at around 12,229 MWs out of total generation capacity of 20,383 MWs, according to the BPDB statistics as on September 12.

State-run Bangladesh Power Development Board, or BPDB, is made to pay billions of Taka to many private sector power plant owners as the capacity payment as penalty for not using their plants.

The government had first adopted the master plan in 2005, which was prepared by the BPDB focusing mainly on locally-produced natural gas to generate electricity.

Japan International Cooperation Agency, or JICA, later prepared the PSMP 2010, which was finalised two years after its revision in 2016.

The PSMP 2010 and its subsequent review in 2016 focused on fuel mix to generate electricity generation considering a longer-term strategy.

For the long-term, it recommended generating around 50 per cent of the overall electricity demand from coal.

To implement the plan, the government would have to generate around 12,000 MWs of electricity from coal by 2024, 20,000 MWs by 2030 and 30,000 MWs by 2041.

But the country currently has only two coal-fired power plants, with five of their units generating around 1,845 MWs of electricity in total.

The government has planned to take future course of action, including the requirement for future power plants, types of fuel etc on the basis of the master plan to be adopted after revision next year, said a senior Power Division official.

"The government has yet to take any decision on ceasing the implementation programme of the under-construction coal-fired power plants or the plants that have already been contracted out for execution," director general of state-owned Power Cell Mohammad Hossain told the FE.

The government has not moved to divert the fuel type of the coal-fired power plants to LNG, or liquefied natural gas either, he said.

Any decision on the major future plan will be based on the master plan, said Mr Hossain.

When contacted, energy adviser of the Consumers' Association of Bangladesh, or CAB, Prof ShamsulAlam alleged the 'vested interest' of the JICA is recommending too many coal-fired power plants.

The JICA is involved in building several coal-fired power plants in the country, including supply, he said to support his allegation.

Besides, the electricity demand as forecasted in the current PSMP is not realistic, he said, adding the fuel mix as suggested is also not rational.

Energy expert Professor M Tamim noted that the demand for electricity should not be forecast on the basis of GDP, or gross domestic product, as it doesn't reflect the actual electricity demand.

Although the country's GDP has grown significantly over the past one decade, the electricity demand didn't expand that much as the growth of electricity-guzzling industrial sector remained almost stagnant, said Mr Tamim, who was the special assistant of Chief Adviser of the previous caretaker government.

The GDP has grown riding on the growth of the service sector and several mega infrastructure projects, he said.

He suggested that the PSMP should be focused on the short-term target for around five years and that of a mid-term for up to 10 years.

"It will help adopt economically viable power sector projects considering the ever changing fuel supply scenario around the world," he said.

Mr Tamim also advised the authorities not to depend on the power sector people alone to develop the next master plan.

Economists and other stakeholders of relevant fields should be incorporated into preparing the next plan, he said, adding otherwise, it will be "unrealistic" and "useless" again.

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