Power Sector: Burden of Overcapacity Demands Redirection towards Clean Energy

The power sector is increasingly overburdened by the excess installed capacity. The situation has aggravated further during the COVID-19. Ambitious demand forecasting in successive the power sector master plans is partly responsible for this. The Power Division needs to re-estimate demand for electricity in the coming years in view of sluggish investment since pre-COVID period which would continue in the post-COVID period.

Re-estimation of power demand would help the power sector to plan for the future in a well-organized way particularly targeting the clean energy led power sector development. The overcapacity of power plants increases production costs which is also a burden at consumers’ end. The government also should renegotiate with development partners and the private sector regarding redirecting resources for implementing clean energy based projects.

These observations were shared at a virtual dialogue titled “COVID-19 Pandemic in Bangladesh – Power Sector in the National Budget for FY2020-21: Analysis of Allocative Priorities & Alternate Proposals” on 24 June 2020. The event was organised by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD).

CPD’s Research Director Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem made a keynote presentation at the event. The participants including the State Minister, Ministry of Power, Energy & Mineral Resources and senior government officials agreed with the recommendation made in the presentation about withdrawal of public and private investments in the coal-based power plants.

He observed that the power sector of Bangladesh has been facing the consequent impact of COVID-19 in different ways such as lower demand for electricity during COVID period and the post-COVID period, growing financial burden and changing forecasted demand for electricity. The COVID-19 has provided an opportunity to revisit existing approaches, operations, management, cost and return of the ongoing power generation, distribution, transmission and related activities. It is a good time to rethink the power sector development strategies in view of redirecting the power sector towards the clean energy led sector by 2030 and 2041, he said.

Mr Nasrul Hamid, MP, State Minister, Ministry of Power, Energy & Mineral Resources, GoB, attended the event as Chief Guest. He said that the government is progressing with a sustainable energy plan for the nation. The overcapacity, what it seems now, is actually not creating any trouble to the consumers. Rather, we are capable of producing sufficient energy for the country when it is needed. Government is thinking about shifting its focus from coal-based power generation.

Professor Rehman Sobhan, Chairman, CPD, as the Chair of the dialogue, advised the power division to establish linkages between demand forecast and GDP growth of the country. It will then be more realistic to understand the contribution of the sector in the national economy.

Mr Mohammad Hossain, Director General, Power Cell, Power Division, Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources (MPEMR), GoB, as a Panel Discussant of the event, said that there is no major disturbance in or power generation mechanism. The government is also focusing on shifting from coal.

Dr M Tamim, Former Special Assistant to the Chief Advisor, Professor, Department of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Engineering, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), as a Panel Discussant, said that the role of the private sector has been critical in terms of meeting the country’s demand. We should not go for any more coal-based power plants. Besides, I also think that demand forecasting needs to be realistic and overcapacities should be utilised effectively.

Mr Siddique Zobair, Policy Expert on Energy, Environment and Climate Change, and Former Additional Secretary and Member, SREDA, Power Division, a Panel Discussant of the event, said that the future of the power sector lies with ensuring affordable renewable energy. We should incentivise and create more opportunities for renewable energy in the country.

Dr A K Enamul Haque, Professor, Department of Economics, East West University, as Special Commentator of the event, emphasised moving for renewable and green energy. He said that transforming to renewable energy is a must for the country to ensure sustainable development. In that case the country needs technological improvements such as installing battery storage.

Dr Fahmida Khatun, Executive Director, CPD hosted the dialogue. She noted that ensuring lower tariff and accessibility for consumers is critical for sustainable energy. At the same time, the government also needs to focus on gradual transformation towards green energy accordingly.

Professor Mustafizur Rahman, Distinguished Fellow, CPD, Dr Muhammad Fouzul Kabir Khan, Former Secretary, Power Division, and Mr Imran Karim, President, Bangladesh Independent Power Producers Association (BIPPA) shared their views as Panel Discussants. Mr Mollah M Amzad Hossain, Editor, Energy and Power, Mr Mohammed Zahidullah, Head of Sustainability, DBL Group, Mr Sohel Ahmed, Managing Director, Grameen Shakti, spoke at the dialogue as Special Commentators.