Originally posted in New Age BD on 30 April 2023
Policymakers joined green activists at an energy conference in Dhaka on Saturday demanding an explanation from the government about the huge power overcapacity threatening to bring the economy down.
Bangladesh has a power overcapacity of about 50 per cent, which has been a consistent source of embarrassment for the incumbent government.
But lawmakers calling the power policy wrong and asking the government to hold accountable those involved in making wrong power demand forecast are rare.
Bangladesh spent over $8 billion in capacity charge, an amount of money paid to power producers whether or not they generate electricity, over the previous decade.
This information was frequently repeated by speakers in the three-day energy conference that concluded on Saturday.
‘The power demand forecast made in the past was not right. We hope the government would hold those involved in making wrong power demand forecast accountable,’ said Hasanul Haq Inu, chair, parliamentary standing committee on the Ministry of Information.
‘Why was this excess power demand forecast made? Is it for facilitating corruption or for making excess profit, but for whom?’ he posed a question.
Describing the power overcapacity and excessive power infrastructure as disastrous for the country, Inu requested the prime minister to take note of the situation.
The conference heard over its course that about a third of the power plants are faulty and that no power plant operated with fossil fuel could run for more than 38 per cent of time in the previous financial year without encountering problem.
Saber Hossain Chowdhury, chair, parliamentary standing committee on the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, said that according to the previous power sector master plan, the power demand was supposed to be 30,000MW in 2023, but in reality, it stayed in the range of 14,500MW to 15,000MW.
Based on the forecast, the government had to arrange for electricity, Saber Hossain Chowdhury said, asking the government to hold those accountable for wrong power demand forecast.
Bangladesh’s current installed power generation capacity is over 23,000MW, overwhelmingly depending on imported fossil fuel.
People affected by baseload power plants also spoke at the conference sharing their miseries after losing their homes and livelihoods to the power plants.
They complained of their ponds, trees and meadows lying under the layers of coal ash and rapidly depleting ground water levels as a result of the impact of operating power plants.
‘We have been destroyed. Yet, we cannot protest, speak out on the matter,’ said Farid Talukder, a farmer from Patuakhali, who lost his fish yielding pond and rice fields to the Payra power plant.
Energy experts and green activists urged the government to switch to renewable energy rapidly to save people and business from rapidly increasing energy cost.
The conference ended with a declaration of 21 points mainly urging the government to align its power and energy and other policies with the Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan, which aims at basing 40 per cent of installed power generation capacity from renewable sources in 2041 and 100 per cent in 2050.
On the concluding day, the conference, among others, was attended by lawmakers Waseqa Ayesha Khan, Selim Altaf George, and Nahim Razzaq, Bangladesh Poribesh Andolan general secretary Sharif Jamil, and Bangladesh Working Group on External Debt member secretary Hasan Mehedi.
A group of 10 organisations, including the Bangladesh Working Group on External Debt, CPD, Action Aid, CLEAN, Climate Parliament Bangladesh, Waterkeepers Bangladesh, and Change Initiative, are organising the conference.