Load shedding: Pay heed to the rural areas

Load shedding is accelerating in proportion to scorching heat. Especially people in rural areas are suffering unspeakably due to power outage for hours. People in many areas carried out protest and vandalism. On Sunday night, the agitated people took out a procession and attacked the Chhagalnaiya Palli Bidyut office. Media reports say that they broke into the office and ransacked the furniture in different rooms and destroyed many necessary documents. Dhaka-Sylhet highway has been blocked at the time.

Power division sources say a target of 16,000 megawatts of power production was taken up in the coming month of May. However, demand exceeded 16,000 MW in April due to scorching heat for the last couple of weeks. The hottest hours of the day span from afternoon to evening. The maximum power generation is 14000 MW at this time. Sometimes there is a shortage of more than 2000 MW.

The power division had anticipated load shedding could be avoided if large coal-based power plants came into production at the beginning of summer. India's Adani Group has been supplying more than 750 MW of electricity per day since 6 April. More than 1,200 megawatts are now available from Payra plant, the country's largest power plant. However, one unit at Barapukuria, which runs on its own coal supply, is closed.

Rampal power plant was shut down three days ago due to mechanical faults. The plant has already shut down several times since the start of production last December. Three units of Ashuganj gas-based power plant have been shut down due to technical reasons.

The government's success in the power sector is being questioned due to various reasons. Power generation capacity has been increased without considering the source of energy. As a result, private power plants have to pay capacity charges even without generating electricity. Electricity prices have been increased three times in the last three months. The Minister of State for Power has hinted that it may increase further.

Electricity is produced from domestic gas and coal as well as gas, coal and oil imported from abroad. As the price of oil and gas in the international market shot up due to the Russia-Ukraine war and the dollar crisis, Bangladesh stopped buying fuel from the spot market. Despite the price has fallen in the global market, fuel cannot be imported as per the demand due to dollar crunch.

Many energy experts believe that the dependent energy policy of the government is responsible for this crisis in the power sector. There is no attempt to explore and extract new gas on land and off the shore. When the price of fuel oil was low in the international market, the government made a profit by importing it. Now it is in trouble due to the price hike. The rationing system was introduced last year to overcome the crisis. It cannot be said that the situation has improved much this time. The coal-based power plant has been set up at Rampal brushing away the objections of environmentalists. But this has raised many questions as it has been shut down in phases.

All in all, there is no possibility of solving the power problem anytime soon. But if the government makes a little effort, it can definitely reduce the number of illegal connections and wastage and can keep supply lines fault-free. Instead of being complacent due to the success of 100 per cent electrification, efforts should be made to reduce load shedding in rural areas.