The government cut LNG and oil imports as global oil and gas prices rose due to the Ukraine war. BPC said Tk 1 billion loss is being incurred on oil imports per day.
While various studies have shown that Bangladesh has abundant natural gas, question remains as to why this crisis emerged in the energy sector. Energy experts previously warned that an import-dependent energy policy could pose a threat to the country.
After many ups and downs, the maritime boundary dispute was resolved in 2014. It was hoped that the government would make an effort to search for gas at sea. Yet no effective action has been taken in the last eight years. Instead, the government's power system master plan announced in 2016 focused on fuel imports. Energy expert M Tamim in an interview with Prothom Alo, said, the energy sector of Bangladesh has become completely dependent on imports through this.
It is true that Awami League took massive programmes to develop the power sector after it came to power in 2009. Many rental and quick rental power plants were set up on private initiative. That was an emergency measure. FBCCI, the apex body of traders, has questioned the logic to continue those rental and quick rental power plants even after a decade and has sharply criticised the inefficiency of the power sector.
We believe this criticism is valid. When oil prices were low in the international market, the government made profit by selling oil at higher prices in the domestic market. Now, reducing imports for higher prices in the international market will only exacerbate the problem. Shortage of power supply is not only disrupting people's lives, production in industries has also declined. Many factories in Dhaka, Chattogram, Gazipur and Narayanganj have been forced to reduce production due to load-shedding.
We have to remember that Bangladesh has exported a record amount even when the entire world was grappling with economic crisis. Especially readymade garments, leather and jute products have been exported. If this frequent load-shedding continues, production will be disrupted and export earnings will also decrease.
It is important to ensure uninterrupted power supply at any cost. If necessary, the government will have to increase subsidies in the energy sector. At the same time, efforts must be made to explore, discover and extract new gas sources on land and at sea. This is the way to increase the capacity of the energy sector.