Rabiul Haque : The summer season is yet to be started but load shedding already started. Electricity demand is much lower than in summer. A maximum of 8,000 megawatts per day. An average of 10,500 megawatts at night (peak hours). The distribution companies have to do load shedding even to meet this electricity demand. There are power outages in various areas including the capital. Before the start of the summer season, the issue of load shedding has worried the observers of the power and energy sector, starting from consumers.
More and less loadshedding is happening in the country now every day. Power Grid Company of Bangladesh (PGCB), a state-owned organization in the power sector, has published the list of hourly electricity generation and load shedding.
According to the information of the organization, the distribution companies had to do load shedding every two days since January 21 last month. And loadshedding has happened every day this month. During the last six days, the load shedding ranged from a minimum of 50 to a maximum of 650 MW during peak hours every 24 hours. Tuesday also there was load shedding almost every hour.
According to the latest information, there has been load shedding from a minimum of 50 MW to a maximum of 450 MW in power generation from 7 am to 5 pm yesterday.
In this regard, BPDB officials say that gas-based power plants do not have sufficient supply of gas. Electricity generation and supply has decreased. As a result, distribution companies are forced to do load shedding. Gas-based power plants require an average of 1,100 million cubic feet of gas per day during peak demand. However, it is possible to maintain normal supply management only if the supply of approximately 800 million cubic feet is ensured. In this case, the supply can be kept normal by using other energy-based power plants. But BPDB is now getting an average daily supply of 550 million cubic feet of gas for power generation. Due to this energy shortage, electricity generation is reduced and load shedding is happening.
The country has gas-based power plants with a capacity of 11,708 MW. There is now a maximum of 4000 megawatts of electricity generation from gas. Due to lack of gas, about 8000 megawatt power plants have to be installed. On the other hand, BPDB had estimated the countrywide peak electricity demand at 10,200 MW yesterday. The peak demand estimate at night was 10,900 MW.
On condition of anonymity, a senior official of the organization told, “The reason for the load shedding in electricity is mainly the fuel shortage of gas-based power plants. Even a month and a half ago, gas was generating 5000 megawatts of electricity. Now it has come down to 4000 megawatts. PDB is getting at least 350 million cubic feet of gas less than the amount of gas required in gas-based power plants every day.
The peak demand for electricity in the upcoming irrigation season in the country has been estimated at 17,800 MW. According to government calculations, the minimum daily gas demand for electricity at this time will be one and a half thousand million cubic feet. And the maximum demand will be 1,760 million cubic feet. Furnace oil demand for electricity will be 1 lakh 54 thousand 950 tons and diesel demand will be 15,600 tons.
At that time, the minimum demand for gas is one and a half thousand million cubic feet, but there is doubt whether Petrobangla will be able to supply this amount of gas. The concerned officials said that the organization does not have that capability. According to them, the maximum supply the company can secure is 800 million cubic feet. It has been heard that there are plans to increase gas supply to electricity this year, but the potential amount has not yet been confirmed. Besides, the amount of possible import of energy is also largely dependent on dollar availability.
The private entrepreneurs of the power sector are also in uncertainty about the supply of energy during peak demand. There are also concerns about continued fuel imports for furnace oil-based power plants in the summer, especially due to the dollar deficit.
Imran Karim, Vice Chairman of Confidence Group, a private entrepreneur in the power sector told, “There has been some relief in the issue of bonds for the payment of electricity dues. This is a good point. However, to maintain normal electricity supply in the private sector, 50 percent supply of dollars must be ensured. Then fuel import can be kept normal, power supply management will also be normal.
A large part of the total electricity capacity of the country remains unused due to lack of sufficient energy resources. Again, due to import dependence, the country’s power sector is in trouble when the instability in the international energy market increases. Currently, the dollar crisis has increased this problem. According to PDB data, the grid-based electricity generation capacity in the country is currently 25,951 MW. Among them, the capacity of gas based power plant is 11,708 MW, coal based 5 thousand 412 MW, furnace oil based 6,492, diesel based 490, hydro power 230 and solar power based 459 MW. Besides, 1,160 MW is being imported from India.
Despite the sufficient power generation capacity, the issue of load shedding during the winter season is worrying energy sector experts and observers. The ongoing dollar crisis is increasing their fears.
Energy expert and former professor of BUET Ijaz Hossain told, “The fact that the centers do not have sufficient resources of primary fuel is becoming a big factor in electricity loadshedding every year.” However, load shedding in winter is not acceptable. Because at this time the demand for electricity is at a minimum. It is important to allocate sufficient dollars for the import of gas and coal in the estimated electricity demand this year as well. By doing this, load shedding will be at a lower rate. If that is not done then it will be difficult to keep the situation normal this year too.
However, the people related to the electricity department say that maximum preparations are being made to meet the demand for energy required for electricity production in the coming summer. The Energy Department has also made special preparations regarding the matter now.
The Director General of Power Cell, an electricity policy and research organization, Engineer Mohammad Hossain told, “This year’s electricity demand target is 17,800 megawatts. In order to produce this amount of electricity, there is a challenge to ensure maximum supply of primary fuel. The power department is preparing for it. Especially during the irrigation season, summer and fasting, the aim is to ensure uninterrupted power supply.
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