Industry, agriculture to get priority supply of electricity

Govt high-ups assure businesses, urge people to sacrifice by cutting demand

| Updated: August 05, 2022 11:01:19

Industry, agriculture to get priority supply of electricity

Despite having a limited scope, the government would try to ensure electricity supply to the industries and businesses that are facing setbacks due to the ongoing load-shedding across the country.

Two government high-ups made the assurance amid concerns raised by trade bodies and business leaders at a seminar titled "Energy Security for Sustainable Development" in the city on Thursday.

They assured that the industrial, agriculture and services would be the priority sectors to get electricity amid the present limited supply capacity.

However, they did not commit any immediate respite from the ongoing energy and power crisis, but called upon the people to do some sacrifice by way of cutting their demand at this critical time.

The Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) hosted the event where Prime Minister's Energy Adviser Dr Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury was present as the chief guest and PM's Principal Secretary Dr. Ahmad Kaikaus was the special guest.

Expressing their concerns, the businesses pointed out that the ongoing power outages were taking a heavy toll on the industry, trade, business and economy.

In response, Dr. Chowdhury assured that the industry and agriculture will get electricity on priority basis despite the rationing.

The government has come up with electricity rationing to deal with the crisis situation created due to the Ukraine war, he explained, informing that initiative has been taken to ensure uninterrupted supply of electricity in the industry and agro sectors.

"We need to do the belt-tightening, (but after) saving our industries and agriculture. We have to make some sacrifices so that we can overcome the situation with the limited reserves of gas and power," he said.

PM's Principal Secretary Dr. Ahmad said that despite prioritising the industry and services sectors, some factories were still facing load-shedding as they are located in the residential areas.

However, he urged the factory owners to inform the authorities concerned if the power outages disrupt production.

"There is not much scope for giving assurance under the current circumstances. We took austerity measures so that the economic shock turns not so severe here," he added.

To avert the adverse impact of the volatile oil and gas market, the businesses have urged the policymakers to prioritise coal-based power-generation policy for a longer period to facilitate sustainable industrial production.

Lessening the dependence on imported primary energy, they also suggested going for a massive exploration drive to extract hydrocarbons from potential areas of the Bengal Delta having immense potential to get natural gas.

In his welcome address, FBCCI President Md. Jashim Uddin said a major portion of the electricity in countries like the USA and India comes from coal-fired power plants.

"We need to go for low-cost coal-based power generation for a longer period as the technology is available that helps generate power without damaging the environment," he added.

The apex trade body leader said that load-shedding is taking place across the country, which is not rationing, hurting the industrial production.

"We need to prioritise industries for the sake of attaining many of the government targets like successful graduation from the LDC status and becoming a developed economy by 2041," he added.

He also urged for offshore exploration and drilling with strengthening the BAPEX further.

President of Bangladesh Textile Mills Association Mohammad Ali Khokon said industries were getting a lesser share of gas although it is contributing almost one-third to the GDP (gross domestic product).

Terming the public hearing a farcical practice of the regulatory body, he said they just listen to the stakeholders' concerns and arguments, but they never responded to them.

He also demanded creation of an emergency fund to deal with the energy crisis.

Managing Director of Shahriar Steel Mills Ltd Sk. Masadul Alam Masud said the production of his unit is being badly affected because of the ongoing load-shedding.

"Many industries are facing the problem. Let the industries out of the impact of load-shedding to keep the economy vibrating," he said.

Chairman of the FBCCI's standing committee on electricity and energy Humayun Rashid called for diversification in the energy mix.

While delivering the keynote paper, FBCCI's Panel Adviser and retired BUET Professor Dr. Ijaz Hossain said the average growth of industry has been hampered due to the shortage of gas.

The sole dependency on gas for power generation has put the country's energy security at risk, he noted.

To ensure long-term energy security, he suggested expanding gas exploration activities, increasing the use of coal in power generation, especially with local coal, and using cost-effective energy strategies.

Energy expert and former professor of Dhaka University Dr. Badrul Imam said Bangladesh is one of the least explored countries in the world although the success ratio in finding gas is very encouraging here.

"In fact, we've done nothing over the last 10 years despite winning the maritime boundary disputes against India and Myanmar," he said and suggested emphasising on offshore gas exploration.

MCCI-Dhaka President Md. Saiful Islam, Chairman of FBCCI's standing committee on electricity and energy Humayun Rashid, Former Additional Secretary Siddique Zobair and Editor of Energy & Power magazine Mollah M. Amzad Hossain, among others, also spoke at the seminar.

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