2 years ago

Hint at yet worse electricity outages

Govt unable to import spot gas for forex constraint

PM’s adviser says responding to demand from businesses

Cars are waiting outside a compressed natural gas (CNG) station in Dhaka's Chankarpool area on Sunday as it has been kept closed due to a fall in gas supply. The drivers said they had been waiting there since morning. The photo was shot around 12:00 noon — FE photo by KAZ Sumon
Cars are waiting outside a compressed natural gas (CNG) station in Dhaka's Chankarpool area on Sunday as it has been kept closed due to a fall in gas supply. The drivers said they had been waiting there since morning. The photo was shot around 12:00 noon — FE photo by KAZ Sumon

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The government cannot afford now to import spot-market gas for forex constraint, the prime minister's energy adviser said on Sunday responding to demand from businesses

He also urged examining the possibility of shunning daytime power use.

"We can't import LNG now in the face of our dwindling foreign-currency reserves rather we would have to be economical in using energy," Dr Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury said while addressing businesspeople at a programme Sunday in a city hotel.

Top business and trade-body leaders gathered in the hotel Sunday to talk the ongoing energy crisis at a discussion meeting titled 'Mitigation of the Impact of Energy Crisis on the Industrial Sector', organised by Bangladesh Chamber of Industries (BCI).

The businesses demanded 200MMcf liquefied natural gas (LNG) from spot market for the next six months that will cost an additional amount of US$1.2 billion.

They also demanded withdrawal of taxes and VAT on import of gas and furnace oil during this crisis time.

"If we import 200 MMcf of gas for the next six months at the current spot-market rate, it will cost about $1.2 billion more than long-term LNG cost… the government is not in a position to invest this amount at this moment," the adviser said in reply to the demand.

Terming the situation uncertain, he said: "None of us knows in which direction the global situation will go."

The Prime Minister's Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Affairs Adviser also said there might be need for refraining from using electricity during daylight.

"We might have to refrain from using any electricity at daytime, if necessary," he said-at a time when already there has been on-again, off-again power supply both at daytime and nighttime in many areas.

"We can turn off the AC if we want. We can reduce the use of electricity. There is a demand for 5,000 to 6,000 megawatts for AC that runs across the country. We ought to keep the AC off or run less. This will save 2,000-3,000MW electricity," he told his audience comprising business magnets.

However, he came up with some mitigation initiatives the government is currently considering, including 80 million cubic feet of gas from Bhola gas-field in next 2-3 months.

"About 80 million cubic feet of gas will be shipped from the Bhola gas-field to add to the national grid in two to three months," he said.

Mr Chowdhury also said 1000MW electricity may come from some coal-fired power plants which might come into production by next December.

He also said the government is considering producing 1000MW additional power for the national gridline from solar plants.

Also, the government mulls over initiating energy diplomacy to mitigate the ongoing power crisis.

"A number of delegations will visit oil-rich countries to look for ways to import fossil fuels at deferred payment or on credit to mitigate the crisis," he said on a further note of optimism.

In a latest development the PM adviser indicated the government is getting offers from unexplained sources for purchasing LNG at US$10-12 MMBtu.

"We don't know if the offer is real, or it is workable. If we can get the gas at the price, it wouldn't be a problem to trade in 200MMcf gas," he said.

As businesses suggested stopping gas supply for fertilizer production and domestic use, the adviser said food production is a priority.

"We will try to provide more electricity to agriculture and industry," he told the business meet.

"If necessary, others will reduce the use of electricity..If we give electricity to the industry, then the supply to residential areas will have to be reduced," Mr Tawfiq said.

He sought help from media owners and journalists in this situation of belt-tightening.

As some businessmen cut in the midst of his speech, the Adviser said it is a matter of geopolitics and scarcity of foreign currency.

He urged the businesses to make plea to the EU and Western diplomats in Dhaka as they are ones who are running the Ukraine war.

President of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) Md Jashim Uddin attended the event as guest of honour while President of Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA) Mohammad Ali Khokon, BCI President Anwarul Alam Parvez, President of the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) Md Saiful Islam, Foreign Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FICCI) vice-president Shwapna Bhowmik, BKMEA vice-president Aftab Hossain Apurba, former FBCCI President AK Azad and President of Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) Mahbubul Alam, among others, spoke on the occasion. International Chamber of Commerce, Bangladesh (ICCB) Mahbubur Rahman was also present.

Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) retired professor Dr Ijaz Hossain delivered the keynote presentation. Economist Binayak Sen and Zaidi Sattar also spoke.

The business big-shots lamented they can't run factories half the day, unable to make payments, meet deadlines and hence lose market-competitiveness.

They expressed their readiness to pay increased price of the energy for survival.

The leading businesspeople said if they do not get sufficient gas and electricity in the factories, they might have to trim workforce to unload burden of continuing losses.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh is witnessing the worst-ever load-shedding in a decade as generation up to the level required could not be brought online since the blackout on October 4 last.

Until Sunday, the power outages were stretching up to eight hours a day in different parts of the country, including the franchise areas of Dhaka Power Distribution Company (DPDC), sources said.

Around half the total power-generating capacity remained idle as the operators-both public and private-cannot afford to run the plants by importing fossil fuels that are highly priced in the international market at present.

According to Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB), the country's total generation during day-peak hours was around 9,750MW and evening-peak hours around 12,318MW against the capacity of 21,710 megawatts as on October 22.

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