Bangladesh has reached a new milestone as the government is about to announce that it has covered 100% of the population with electricity.
“Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will officially announce it during a program on March 21,” Nasrul Hamid, state minister for electricity, energy and mineral resources, told reporters during a briefing. program at Bidyut Bhaban in Dhaka yesterday.
“We have already brought electricity to remote areas. All houses, except those under construction, have electricity.”
“We have brought power lines to remote areas like Rangabali in Patuakhali and Hatia and Nijhum Dip in Noakhali,” said Md Habibur Rahman, the ruling secretary.
The achievement will put Bangladesh ahead of India and Pakistan, among South Asian countries, which have brought 98% and 74% of their population under the power grid, according to World Bank data.
Bangladesh has made impressive progress in the electricity sector over the past decade.
Installed power generation capacity soared to 25,514 megawatts from 4,942 MW in 2009, while peak power generation rose to 13,792 MW, four times the 3,268 MW there is 13, according to data from the Electricity Division.
In 2009, only 47% of the population had access to electricity. Electricity production per capita more than doubled from 220 kWh to 560 kilowatt hours during the period, making frequent blackouts a thing of the past.
Experts hailed the feat.
Speaking to the Daily Star, M Tamim, an energy expert and professor at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, described 100% coverage as a major milestone for the country.
“People are covered by electricity. It’s a great achievement.”
Khondaker Golam Moazzem, research director of the Center for Policy Dialogue, said: “This is a major achievement of the government.”
“The government has set itself the goal of bringing the entire population under electric blankets. It has worked over the past decade to achieve this goal.”
The success in the electricity sector has also helped the government to lift the economy to a new high.
“Economic success is not only visible in cities – it is also visible in rural areas,” Moazzem said.
Professor Tamim and Moazzem recall the challenges facing the government.
“Now we will have to ensure an uninterrupted power supply. Electricity will also have to be affordable,” Prof Tamim said.
“Electricity has been brought to people in remote areas. If they can’t afford it, having the power grid won’t make any difference,” he said.
Moazzem said the government had been able to provide electricity connections to the people, but the country was lagging behind in the availability of electricity.
“Electricity availability is still low given the capacity,” he said, referring to over 40% excess electricity generation capacity.
He urged the government to reduce overspending incurred in the form of capacity payments, for the operation of inefficient power plants and for the use of expensive fuels.
Over the next decade, the government will have to attempt to switch to renewable energy, gradually reducing dependence on electricity generation from fossil fuels.
“We will also have to make improvements in the areas of transmission and distribution systems,” Moazzem said.
The economist urged the government to reform power sector policy, moving from emergency power supply laws to a competitive power system.
Referring to a study by the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, Professor M Shamsul Alam, Energy Advisor and Senior Vice President of the Consumers Association of Bangladesh, says that 10-15% of the population do not have access to electricity in many areas, even though the areas were covered with electricity in the past.
“The government has made electricity available to the people. Lifeline tariffs have been extended to provide electricity at preferential rates. Why are some people still not taking advantage of the extension of electricity coverage? “
Professor Alam says people still use kerosene to light the lamps. “This is one of the indicators that indicate that many people do not have access to electricity.”
At the event, Nasrul Hamid said the Prime Minister would inaugurate the 1,320 MW coal-fired power plant at Payra in Patuakhali on March 21.
The plant will have less impact on the environment than a brick kiln. It will be a joint venture between Bangladesh and China, he added.
The Minister of State said that the government suffered huge losses when importing fuel and liquefied natural gas (LNG) due to Russia’s war against Ukraine.
“Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation is losing Tk 80 crore a day,” he said, adding that the government is still trying to keep fuel and gas prices stable even by providing subsidies.
“But if the loss gets worse, the government could reverse its decision.”
Mentioning his recent visit to Qatar, Hamid said he offered Qatar to import 1.8 billion per million British thermal units (MMBtu) of LNG as part of a long-term agreement.
“Qatar will make its decision in a few days,” he added.
About the supply capacity, Hamid said the gap between peak and off-peak hours is around 6,000 MW.
“The demand for electricity is increasing by 200 MW every day, so we have to increase the production capacity according to the growing demand.”
Hamid said many experts criticized the government, saying it was making capacity payments because it could not use generation capacity.
“But that’s part of the investment.”
The 30-40% reserved capacity is intended to meet electricity demand during peak hours and emergencies. “Otherwise we will not be able to ensure an uninterrupted power supply across the country,” he said.
Developed countries like the United States and Japan are maintaining 100% extra capacity, he added.