Why is the distribution system not automated?

One power plant after another has been established over the years without ensuring the supply of fuel. The power generation capacity has increased almost twice as much as the demand, but due to energy crisis, many power plants have to sit idle while loadshedding for several hours is being implemented.

The Russia-Ukraine war has unfurled the very core defect of the country's power generation system. Meanwhile, the national grid broke down on 4 October. The eastern and western parts of the country were cut off from the grid. A large part of the country, including the capital Dhaka, faced a blackout for four hours straight. In some places, it took eight hours to restore the electricity. The recent failure of the national grid has also brought to the fore the basic weaknesses of the transmission and distribution system.

Prothom Alo reports, the Power Grid Company of Bangladesh (PGCB) inquiry committee blamed the mismanagement of the power sector for the recent grid disaster in their report. Bangladesh's electricity distribution process is not yet automated, requiring over phone instructions to maintain balance between supply and demand in the national grid.

Any change results in disaster at any moment. The inquiry committee is mainly identifying two reasons behind this disaster. Firstly, lack of coordination in power generation, transmission and distribution. Secondly, not strictly following the statutory rules (rule book) and grid code of power supply system.

A major power crash occurred in the national grid in 1 November 2014. The investigation committee formed at that time made 32 recommendations in their report to prevent such disasters in the future, including modernisation and digitisation of the electricity transmission system, development of all technical systems. It has not been implemented even after eight years. However, in these few years, at least three more small-scale disasters have occurred in the national grid. But who will be held accountable for not implementing the recommendation in all these days?

According to relevant experts, minor incidents happen all the time in the national grid. When several events happen together, it can lead to disaster. Once only PDB was generating electricity in the country. Now many private power plants also generate electricity. Apart from this, electricity from India is also connected to the national grid. Therefore, if power management is not automated and modernised, there is no way to get rid of the risk of such disasters.

The power department is looking for those responsible for the recent power outages. In the meantime, two officials of PGCB have been suspended due to negligence of duty. Identification of the persons responsible for the distribution company accused in the same case is underway.

Disciplinary action may be taken against seven to eight people. But experts say it is difficult to find the real responsible persons. The question is, will the problem be solved if a few are punished by overlooking the main crisis of power supply management?

There is no alternative to developing an integrated management of generation, transmission and distribution for the security of the power sector. Modernising and automating the power supply system requires huge investment.

Investing in the transmission and distribution system has become an imperative to stop the huge wastage in the power generation sector at present. Behind the mismanagement of the power sector is the government's wrong energy policy, the cost of which is borne by the citizens. Power disasters cannot be stopped by dismissing a few officials other than addressing the root cause of the crisis.