Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC) decided to increase the price of electricity by 19.92 per cent at the bulk level when most of the people are unable to rein in the expenses despite various cuts in daily needs due to unabated high inflation.
As a result, the pressure of additional cost on the power distribution companies will ultimately be passed on to the consumers. But economists have been urging and suggesting bringing down the inflation to bring respite to public life. Due to the electricity price hike, another wave of price inflation will surely hit the market of all the essentials.
How much will the citizens bear the brunt for the government's wrong policy and mismanagement, inefficiency in the energy and power sector? The government has constructed power plants one after another in the past one decade without ensuring the source of primary fuel.
Quick rental power plants have been approved for short periods to deal with emergency situations. Despite strong criticism of rental power plants, the government had to pay capacity charges of about Tk 700 billion for them in the last 10 years.
The feebleness of the energy and power sector emerged due to lack of sustainable system has come to the fore right after the crises such as the Russia-Ukraine war. In June of this year, the price of gas and in August, the price of fuel oil has been raised. The government implemented load shedding from July to October. The decision to increase electricity prices came at a time when the situation of power shortage was improving in November due to lower demand during the winter season.
How realistic is the statement made by the minister of state for power and energy that the electricity price will not increase at the consumer level? According to the increased prices, the distribution companies will have to buy Tk 6.20 per unit from next month. Earlier this price was Tk 5.17 paisa. The distribution companies claim they will incur losses if they buy electricity at higher prices.
Meanwhile, an organisation has appealed to BERC to increase electricity prices at the retail level. The price in the consumer level will certainly soar even if it can be stopped for a few days or weeks. Is it not appropriate to provide real information to the consumers? The government wants to get loans from IMF, World Bank, ADB, JICA due to foreign exchange reserve crisis. There are questions among people whether electricity and fuel subsidy is being reduced or not as per the condition imposed to get loans. The government needs to provide clear and transparent information in this regard.
Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) has claimed that BERC has decided to increase the price of electricity arbitrarily without listening to the opinions of the consumers. CAB senior vice president M Shamsul Alam said that rather than hiking price, subsidies in the power sector could have been reduced by decreasing predatory spending and inefficiencies.
The government grants a large amount of subsidy annually to the power and energy sector. But it is important to determine how much benefit of that subsidy goes to the people and how much to the certain groups.
BERC has increased the price of electricity considering surplus of electricity supply by 6.5 per cent per annum. But due to load shedding, the generation of electricity has declined this year.
Today's crisis emerged due to gross irregularities and reckless unaccountability in the power and energy sector, in which the consumers have no role. Yet all the responsibilities are put on the consumers. Policymakers must address corruption and inefficiency while eliminating wrong energy policies before imposing new burdens on consumers.