Confronting Energy “Famine?”

Kh.A.Saleque.

Kh.A.Saleque.

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.


9 Responses to “Confronting Energy “Famine?””

  1. JZ

    The team led by Hasina in the first 15 months has wasted time. Finance minister’s PPP promises never took off. The advisors misled the PM. These two thoroughly incompetent advisers whose service records as CSPs are tainted should be thrown out immediately.These crooks have also alienated many AL followers and sympathisers. Both the PM and her sister are to blame.

    The PM should immediately break the corrupt nexus of HT Imam and Taufiq Elahi who have been doling out favors to opportunists and anti-AL former bureaucrats and people like Yunus and Abed who have never acknowleged in public Bangabandhu stature as the father of the nation.

  2. DeshPremik

    So far, Muhith is proving to be the worst Finance Minister the country.I agree. PM is depending too much on a few incompetent former CSP’s with unsatisfactory performance during their service. HT Imam was our BongoBondhu’s Cabinet Secretary, the number one man of the civil bureaucracy to advise the head of government. If the High Court could call General Shafiullah a coward for his so-called “paralysis” before, during and after the events of August 15, 1975, then what was HT Imam doing as the chief secretary? Hasina had, basically, thrown these incompetent people into oblivion but these incompetent opportunists have found their way back! Our PM needs to wake up; inadequate progress in the last fifteen months with incompetents like HT Imam & Taufiq Elahi should ring bells and remind her of the opportunists who once surrounded her father. HT Imam and the like doomed our first Awami League Government. After spending 35+ years in the sunshine of Washington since the murder of our Father of the Nation, the opportunist HT’s have risen again. Watch out, our PM and Sheikh Rehana, the daughters of our BongoBondhu! BEWARE!

  3. Zahir

    Mr Saleque ,
    I need to communicate you and I hae posted your article in your name to Ecademy.
    As I do not know your mail adress , I coud not forward you the link.
    Could you pass your mail address to : shamsery@yahoo.com

    Regards,
    Zahir shamsery,
    Dhaka,Bamgladesh

  4. Aminur_eee

    with all respect to all of our nation leaders, i want to say that please
    do not depend only the “Gas” as fuel in power plants.My suggestion is that please use our other natural resources such as “coal” and keep the as storage for the future.

  5. shamsuddin ahamed

    Mr. Saleque empesises on coal mining seems to be advocating indirect way for open pit minning.But our Prime minister wrightly observed that Bangladesh is not like Austrlia and Germany. Though Mr Salek wrote only one sentence regarding UCG but I believe only Ucg can solve our energy crisis by utilising all the coal deposits for Syngas micture of H2,CO,CH4 and co2 through Under Ground Coal Gasification.Co2 to be separeted throgh process plant and the remaining gas can be used for power genaration and other uses like natural gas. It can be produced in shortest possible time than extracting coal by open pit or underground process.We are lucky that many countries initiated feasibility studies during last 15 years and they are producing syngas commercially.One may visit ucgp.com and also can see the review of Dr.Mark muller on UCG published in Mines and Communities dated 05.05.09.In this regard Dr. Badrul Imam presented a key note paper on 25.07.2010. Import of coal and LNG will add our aditional energy sequrity. Writer:Ex. Head of drilling,Bapex.

  6. Arif Motahar

    Mr. Saleque’s write up is surely very informative and well researched. Specially your recommendation on using coal as an alternative resource can benefit instantly. We should surely avoid imports as much as possible for anything other than industrial and productive equipments, not just coal & oil. I personally feel in this country all major industrial revolutions came from public not government. Garments industry is a prime example. However, production of energy requires a different approach of revolution. First of all, it is very capital intensive and somewhat political. Since the AL government led by Hasina has the willfulness to do something about this energy crisis, we must appreciate this notion. My suggestion will be for the government to introduce various capital market instruments such as ‘Energy Bond’, special ‘Mutual Fund’ targeting this sector and various other ways to raise finance from public. The idea of borrowing from ADB or IMF always come with strings attached and politically motivated, therefore, should be avoided. While setting up new plants, forming coal strategy and the rest, the government should also focus on reducing use of gas for anything other than industrial use. Drastic measures like reducing number of C&G stations, restriction on C&G driven vehicles, encouraging households to use LP gas and gradually complete stop on gas supply to households etc. may save use of gas for anything other than production of electricity. For short term I doubt if we have any ready alternative source as most of the major power plants depend on gas at present. Specially C&G stations and household use are the major wastage of gas. Just imagine how much gas is being lost from faulty and old installation, pipeline, unauthorized use and various other manipulations. Even if the government has to subsidize initially to control public sentiment, that will cost lot less than what’s being wasted. Taxation on air conditions should be made very high to discourage private use as much as possible. Alternative source of cooling, encouraging use of appropriate building construction materials (not just brick and cement) and energy saving architecture should be promoted in the form of revised building codes. Government should form an advisory committee and depend on a single adviser on serious national issues. No matter how good or bad an adviser as a person is, there is always scope for manipulation when too much authority is given to a single person, specially when this person has served as CSP for three generations (British, Pakistan and Bangladesh all three)!!! It is normal to become big headed and feel indispensable at such point. PM should use such people as think tank and mentors not as implementors. Please note that these comments are not meant to undermine any political belief. If I come across otherwise in any way, my humble apologies!

  7. Bystander

    The PM and her team has performed remarkably well despite the smear campaign waged by the opposition Jamaat-e-Islami and their ally the BNP. It is Jamaat who is running and dictating the BNP. It is not the other way round as the majority thinks.

    The energy crisis has to tackled on several fronts. First and foremost the crisis will stay forever if unplanned mouths are added annually to feed them. The population must be trimmed down. Adding power plants after years of corruption and negligence by the Islamic fundamentalists Jamaat-e-Islamiandtheir soul mate BNP will not solve this problem overnight. It will take at least 3-4 years. There`s no short cut solution for this BNP and war criminals Jamaat-e-Islami created man-made disaster.

    Corruption was rampant during Jamaat-BNP axis of evil`s ruling period. From the Mohakhali flyover to introduction of Volvo double deckers enormous amounts of kickbacks were paid to Khaleda Zia`s sons. The Mohakhali flyover and the Volvo buses are total faiures.

    In comparison the AL has run the country far better that any other previous governments.

  8. Shafaey Iqbal

    1. No-one foreign wants to invest in Bangladesh even if they are British Bangladeshi with the means to because of corruption. Corruption has made the image of Bangladesh not respectable. Respect is reputation.

    2. Solar energy conversions on property would go a long way.

    3. The biggest problem is there is no vision and any party you vote for are just plain stupid, uneducated or live in the past. Key is bringing money into the country. How can Bangladesh do that? MASS DEVELOPMENT and make foreign investment attractive especially to Bangladeshi-Natives. How can Bangladesh make that happen? Make the Taka even more weaker then it is by printing more money and keeping imports to a minimum while building up land. It would make it MUCH MORE CHEAPER for someone in the UK to spend money in Bangladesh on building work such as warehouses or even something like this I came across,
    [ http://www.muktibangla.org/home/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=47:bangladesh-can-be-self-sustainable-in-food-production&catid=34:development ]
    Help outsource abroad and get the products shipped out so hefty money can be made and then reinvest. We live in a Co-operate world now where businesses run countries. PM is only there to keep things in order what they all seem to be doing a bad job in. Food could be a big problem but having it all grown within the country first would eliminate it. After mass development is made you can then start recovering the problem of inflation/deflation and get the currency at a point where it is strong again. Long term goals with short term steps.

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