Energy crisis precipitates acute load shedding

Load shedding
File photo

Although the government said load shedding will completely end in October, it has increased. Electricity cannot be generated as per demand due to the energy crisis. The production capacity of power plants cannot be used fully while households and industries are suffering from load shedding.

Power division sources said they carried out the highest 2000MW to 2200MW load shedding in a day from July to September. Now it increased to 2500-3000MW, which is the highest in the last three months. Different parts of Dhaka city now see load shedding up to 3 to 4 hours a day while some areas outside the city see 7 to 15-hour load shedding. In areas covered by Rural Electrification Board (REB) in Mymensingh division, load shedding is carried out in better parts of the day.

Experts said the authorities slashed the import of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) due to price hikes. Production in gas-run power plants has decreased. Fuel-run power plants cannot also continue production as per demand due to increasing bills. The government expected a decrease in electricity demand ahead of winter but the plan was marred as the temperature did not decrease. As a result, the government has backtracked from its decision to end load shedding in October.

The government earlier decided to take up fuel saving means due to the dollar crisis. A planned load shedding was started on 19 July. Authorities said they would implement load shedding an hour every day but they could not keep the promise. Dhaka city saw over two hours of load shedding a day while some parts of the country outside Dhaka experience up to eight hours of outage. Load shedding decreased somewhat in Dhaka city at the end of September but October has seen more outages.

Four-five times outages in Dhaka

Officials of Dhaka Power Distribution Company (DPDC) and Dhaka Electric Supply Company (DESCO) confirmed that Dhaka city is experiencing the highest load shedding in the last three months. They said they had to implement load shedding two to three times in July although the plan was to carry out outages once a day. Demand increased in October instead of decreasing. A meeting is scheduled to be held in the secretariat today regarding the ongoing load shedding.

DPDC’s managing director (MD) Bikash Dewan told Prothom Alo that there is a shortage of 400 to 500MW every day. Such a situation did not arise in the last three months. Some areas even saw power outages five times a day.

DESCO’s MD Amir Kawsar Ali said the load shedding has turned worse recently. He told Prothom Alo that the supply shortage is around 300MW a day and up to four times load shedding has to be implemented in some feeders.  

Load shedding to continue

Power Development Board (PDB) sources said the country's production capacity is 19,537MW except for the power imported from India. The production is only 9,000-12,000 right now while the demand is up to 12,000-14,500MW. Industries cannot use 50 to 60 per cent of the production capacity due to power shortages.

The power division said the gas supply was decreased in the power production sector while increasing a bit in the industry. The finance ministry is not outlaying the subsidy in the power sector regularly. Also, the dollar supply for importing energy is irregular. Private power plants run on fuel are also not producing power as per their capacity.

State minister for power, energy and mineral resources Nasrul Hamid told Prothom Alo that the private power plants are not getting due bills for several months. The fuel price is not decreasing in the global market. LNG cannot be imported in a bid to save dollars. All these factors combined hinder an increase in power production. As a result, load shedding cannot be stopped.

The state minister said ongoing load shedding will continue for some more days.

Gas supply decreased

Petrobangla has said the gas supply dwindled as a result of a decrease in LNG import. The supply is 2.85 billion cubic feet now while the demand is 3.8 cft. The supply was 2.8 to 2.85 cft in last month. LNG is contributing to only 380 million cft now.

However, the Petrobangla was supposed to supply 850 million cft of gas daily when the gas price was increased last June. Among these were 500 million cft LNG exported from Omar and Qatar under a long-term agreement. Five ships containing LNG gas every month from these two countries started to arrive in June. Four ships are supposed to arrive in October. The purchase of LNG from the spot market was stopped in July due to the dollar crisis. The price of LNG is however decreasing in the global market. The price soared to around 60 USD in August but now dropped to 25 USD.

Production decrease in private power plants  

Most of the private power plants run on imported furnace oil. They are incurring losses as now they are to purchase dollars at an exorbitant price and import the fuel. They demanded the bills be prepared on the actual exchange value of the dollar and PDB seconded this. But the finance ministry did not approve the proposal. Also, the private power plants are not getting money from PDB regularly as the dues now are over Tk 160 billion. This situation forces many private power plants to stop importing fuel and suspend their power generation.

Bangladesh Independent Power Producer Association’s president Imran Karim told Prothom Alo the price of the dollar is increasing regularly while the PDB is takes four months to disburse the bills. The loss is widening as there is a wide gap in the exchange rate of the dollar. Many power plants cannot import oil in these circumstances, he said adding that the load shedding situation might improve if the government enforces the suggestion made by PDB.

Power plants sit idle

There are a total of 133 power plants in the country, according to PDB data. Among these, 57 gas-run plants have a capacity of 11,017MW power production. These plants are now producing only 5,000MW right now. The production capacity of 56 power plants run by furnace oil is 5,541MW and 11 diesel-run plants can produce 1,515MW. In total, the power plants run by fuel oil have a daily production capacity of over 7,000 while only 2,500-4,000MW is being produced now.

As per agreement, the government is to pay capacity charges to power plants even if they stop production. As a result, the government is incurring billions of losses every year.  The government has paid a whopping Tk 560 billion as a capacity charge in the last three years.

M Tamim, the special assistant to the chief adviser of a caretaker government, told Prothom Alo that load shedding has increased instead of decreasing. He said the situation has deteriorated due to the dollar crisis and the government's due bills in private sector plants are increasing.

He said load shedding might decrease a bit in the winter but what will happen next March-April is inconceivable.