Mr AMA Muhith Finance Minister of Bangladesh while talking about prevailing energy situation of Bangladesh regarded the situation as Energy famine. We do not know how many of his cabinet colleagues will subscribe to that. But when a finance minister repeatedly mentions energy crisis as the major barrier in investment in Bangladesh he must also find out why investors are not investing into primary fuel exploration or power generation. Commercial banks are sitting on huge idle money. Not only foreign investors but also the local investors are seemingly disinclined to invest at any segment of energy value chain. As a result, in 15 months present government has not been able to make visible improvement of energy situation.
About 60% of 155 million populations have no direct access to power. The power demand of the remaining 40% in the current intensive irrigation season is about 6000MW against which on Pohela Boishak the highest ever power generation of about 4600 was recorded. Most of the gas consuming industries were shut down on the day and 861 MMCFD gas was supplied for power generation against a demand of 998MMCFD. Mention must be made that 5 out of 7 urea fertilizer plants are now shut down. Present irrigation monsoon has added about 1200MW additional power load and continuing draught and humidity have also increased power demand. After mid May irrigation load will gradually come down and the onset of monsoon will also reduce power demand. About 250 MW contingency new power should be on-stream by July also. Considering all these we can not fully agree with Mr Muhith that Energy Famine is prevailing in the country. A person in such significant position should be careful in making sweeping remarks.
As per tradition Finance minister is discussing with various stake-holders about upcoming national budget 2010-2011. His last session was with Chairmen of different Parliamentary standing committees. FM met Mr Tofael Ahmed MP, Mr Suranjeet Sengupta MP, Mr Engineer Mosharraf Hossain MP, Mr Hasanul Huq Inu MP.Major (Rtd) Rafiqul Islam MP, and Mr Nur Alam Chowdhury MP. It was obvious that MPs were extremely concerned about energy situation. FM was asked about how it was recommended to PM that about 9000mW new power would be added to national grid in 4 years while after 40 years of independence our total generation capacity is about 4000MW. MPs advised FM to restrain from making unworkable promises which would make senior responsible government ministers objects of ridicule to people. One senior MP reportedly criticised government action of seeking investment in Road shows. It may be mentioned here that using IOC fund for the training of Petrobangla professionals and high-powered Bangladesh delegation led by Energy Advisor to PM ventured into road shows in London, Singapore and New York in December and January. No positive achievement of this road show is still visible. Citizens have the right to know what Bangladesh achieved from this road show because evidently, from various quarters, frustrations from some potential investors have just started pouring in. Parliament Committee on Energy must ask Energy Ministry to produce lists of investors attending the Road show, list of Bangladesh delegation, their role and basis of their selection. December and January were preparation time for encountering the prevailing energy crunch. Absence of senior Power and Gas Executives for several days definitely impacted upon the government-preparation for encountering energy crisis.
Anyway, when a Senior ruling-party MP asks what Wonder lamp of Aladin government has to generate 9000MW power in 4 years, it definitely demands response from planners who are making PM make such lofty promise. Where is the money? Where is the fuel? Can transmission and distribution system absorb this additional power? Will anyone invest here without assurance of the rate of return? Our track record of constructing major power plants does not evidence that we can set up any major power plants in less than 4 years. Even this government in 15 months could not complete a ward of 450MW Bibiyana power plant. We are naughty devils in matters of tender manipulations. Overnight angels will not dawn upon energy sector to create wonders.
Some vested-quarter is misguiding PM that imported coal and imported LNG will create magic. Bangladesh has about 65tcf equivalent high quality [High Heating Value Low ash and low sulphur] bituminous coal in 5 discovered mines. Coal at 4 of the 5 mines is at mineable depth in proven mining methods. The coal from the other mines can be converted to coal bed methane. Our coal can generate 20,000MW for 50 years. Yet for unnecessary coal policy formulation, Bangladesh has wasted 5 years since December 2005. Bangladesh is not starting coal mining in the technically appropriate and commercially feasible method. Coal mafia syndicate is thriving on import of dirty polluting coal. This syndicate is pushing government for coal import leaving our own coal underground. Recently Indian Power Secretary also recommended to set up imported LNG or coal-based power plant in Bangladesh and proposed to share power.
Any genuine energy sector professional will agree that both LNG and Coal import and generating power in the current Bangladesh scenario are wild dreams. PM Hasina must realise this. Senior Coalition MPs must suggest PM to give green signal to domestic coal mining and to ignore ill-advice of motivated Energy advisor. PM must make Energy advisor accountable for his failure to deal with energy issues. The sufferings of the citizens have taken the level of frustration to the greatest point. War criminals may add fuel to fire to serve their own ends. PM must show intent to earn peoples’ confidence. She must overhaul energy sector management. Theoretician’s top management in Energy sector, Gas sector produced nothing more than lip service. It is time for senior political leaders to lead energy sector and not the opportunist controversial beauracrat. PM must immediately put a Senior Coalition MP in charge of Energy ministry and also change the failed top management of power and gas sector. Enough must be enough for her. Energy famine may cause demise of Coalition government if famine gives rise to energy epidemic.