energy security

BANGLADESH is celebrating achievement of 10,000 MW power generation capacity with colourful programmes.

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Fireworks and laser show at Hatirjheel project area in the capital yesterday on the occasion of celebrating the country’s more than 10,000 MW of power generation
Celebrating 10,000MW capacitya achievement of 10,000 MW power generation capacity (installed) with colourful programmes. The government surely can celebrate its achievement in tackling the severe crisis of power generation and supply in the short term. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been busy inaugurating various development projects, a significant number of which are power plant projects. Foundation stone for 5 more coal-fired power plants have been laid.
Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) website shows that the country had 4,942 MW (with a maximum generation capacity of 3,268 MW) installed power generation capacity on January 6, 2009, the day the present government assumed power. During 2009, per capita electricity generation was 183 kWh, which has been enhanced to 321 kWh per annum (including captive generation). Presently, 62% of the population have been brought under power supply coverage.
As the installed power generation facilities are now able to generate 6,000 MW of power consistently, regular power outage for prolonged periods has been reduced significantly. If fuel supply could be secured, additional 1,000 plus megawatt electricity could be generated. BPDB reports that it received 790 million cubic feet of gas on November 10 but, despite having capacity, it had to generate 642 MW less power due to shortage of gas. 470 MW power could not be generated. It’s true that the share of fuel for power generation has been diversified (from almost 90% gas-based generation to multiple sources) during the tenure of the present government; but due to increased dependence on imported fuel oil, cost of power generation has increased. Government had to raise power tariff six times to reduce the subsidy pressure for power sector.
Natural gas-based power generation capacity has come down to nearly 68% (6,587 MW). On the other hand, imported fuel oil based power generation has been enhanced to nearly 26%. The share of hydroelectricity and coal-fired power generation remains limited within 5%. Our country became grid connected with Indian power transmission line for the first time from October 5, and 250 MW power was imported. It is expected that within the next few weeks 250 MW more electricity would start to flow from Indian to Bangladeshi power networks.
One of the major vision statements of the government is to secure uninterrupted supply of electricity for all the citizens within 2021 at an affordable price. Implementation of the vision statement is significantly dependant not only on installations of new power plants but also on supply security of primary fuels. Developing adequate transmission and distribution systems commensurate with the generation capacity and consumers’ need offers major challenges. The government estimates that $ 18 billion investment would be required by 2017 to secure power generation capacity of 16,000 MW. To attain vision 2021, estimated 24,000 MW of electricity needs to be generated.
The government wants to generate 20,000 MW coal-fired electricity by 2030. The Power System Master Plan 2010 (published in February 2011) set a target to produce 11,250 MW electricity from domestically produced coal and the remaining 8,400 MW from imported coal. Bangladesh will need to produce approximately 33 million tonnes of coal, while 25 million tonnes have to be imported from sources like Indonesia, Australia and South Africa. Both are huge challenges as the country lacks the facilities to produce big volume of coal (currently the only producing mine, Barapukuria, has a maximum of one million tonne of production capacity annually) and bulk coal import infrastructure.
Arranging investments for developing coal-fired power plants capable of generating 20,000 MW power within 2030, and for the infrastructure development to import of 25 million tonne of coal (port facilities, inland water transport facilities, river dredging and maintenance, loading and unloading facilities for huge volume of coal etc) will not be easy. Apart from huge investment, Bangladesh will need technology and management capacity development in the coal sector.
More surveys of major parts of our known coal fields (Jamalganj, Barapukuria, Khalashpir, Dighipara and Phulbari) are needed for assessing recoverable reserve of coal, mining methods and socio-environmental costs of mining the coal. Barapukuria mine has shown how difficult and costly coal mining is with underground methods of mining. It also showed that producing 5.2 million tonne of coal since 2005 with total dependence on international contractors and consultants did not help our local manpower to develop.
We have not developed a single institute or department in the universities to produce mining professionals. We also lack the capacity to professionally scrutinise the technical proposals for evaluating coal mine development studies submitted by international companies.
In line with the above, the target of securing 50% power generation with coal within 2030 is indeed a huge challenge. If we fail to adopt pragmatic policies supported by concrete actions in this regard, we may continue to struggle with the ongoing power crisis management. We intend to see materialisation of the vision 2021 — quality supply of electricity for all at an affordable price.
The author is a mining engineer, and writes on energy and environment issues.

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