Over the last decade, Bangladesh has experienced booming economic growth, rapid urbanisation, and increased industrialisation -- right on track with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s vision to turn Bangladesh into a middle-income country by 2021, a vision first articulated during the 2008 national elections.
In 2009, when the AL-led government assumed office, the nation was suffering from a chronic power crisis. The average power demand at the time was about 6,000MW while the national power generation capacity was less than 5,000MW. Ordinary citizens suffered immensely due to the daily eight to 10 hours of load-shedding during the stiflingly hot summer months.
Now the generation capacity has increased to more than 16,000 MW which is very much at par with the capacity as declared in the ruling party’s election manifesto.
Since 2009, the administration has been working relentlessly to realise our PM’s vision for the nation, part of which entails 100% electricity coverage by 2021; the Power Division expects to achieve this even sooner.
In 2009, access to electricity was just 47% -- now it stands at 83%.
In line with Vision 2021, the power sector’s objectives also include ensuring reliable and affordable electricity supply to all.
The rapid economic and industrial growth as well as rapid urbanisation that we have been witnessing over the years was only possible because of the government’s comprehensive efforts to develop the power sector.
During 2015-2016, 1,586MW of power was added to the national grid.
The progress made in our power generation is also reflected in the surge in per capita electricity consumption and in the number of subscribers.
What was achieved from 1971-2009 has been achieved and tripled in the last nine years by the present government.
However, as the nation continues to develop, demand for electricity will also grow rapidly and we must keep working to ensure sufficient supply.
During the nine years of the current administration, a good number of new initiatives have been taken in the power sector, resulting in the landmark achievements shown in the table below. Some of those initiatives are briefly described as follows:
Cross-Border Electricity Trade (CBET)
By facilitating power exchange through regional cooperation, CBET allows Bangladesh to import 660MW of electricity from India. The government plans to import a further 3,500MW by 2021.
High-Voltage DC (HVDC)
The first-ever 400kV HVDC line has been established to import 500MW of power through the Bangladesh-India Grid Interconnection.
The 54.7ckt-km double circuit line was built in 2013 to transmit electricity by converting into high-voltage DC from AC and then converting back into 230kV AC at the Bheramara station in Bangladesh.
Grid-tied solar power and solar mini-grids
The first grid-tied solar power-plant in Bangladesh was installed at Sarishabari, Jamalpur with a capacity of 3MW, and last month, the PM inaugurated a 400KW solar mini-grid in the Sunamganj district.
The mini-grid project is the largest in the country and one of the largest in the world, providing power to around 1,000 marginalised households in the remote haor areas.
As part of off-grid electrification, the government is also distributing solar home systems (SHS), mini-grids, and micro-grids. So far, 4.5 million SHS and 10 mini-grids have been installed in off-grid rural areas, with an aim to install 6 million SHS and 50 mini-grids by 2018 to cover about 10% of the total population.
The government has undertaken 13 mega projects in co-operation with India, Japan, China, Malaysia, South Korea, and Singapore, to set up coal-based power-plants generating up to 5,925MW.
The primary work for the projects is underway in both the public and private sectors, with the Payra power-plant set to be the first to begin operation in April 2019.
Prepaid metering system
A nationwide pre-paid metering system is being introduced to enable easier bill payment and ensure 100% collection of electricity bill. Once the installation process is completed, consumers can no longer use electricity without paying for it.
The 700,000 pre-paid meters installed so far have already led to significantly lower system loss and also less wastage by consumers and thus lower demand.
ICT in Power Sector
In order to facilitate good governance through higher quality customer service, greater efficiency, transparency, and accountability, the Power Division has digitsed the sector to a large extent.
In addition to online power connections and bill payment systems, PMIS and complaints management systems have also been introduced. A comprehensive website for the Ministry of Power, Energy, and Mineral Resources has been developed, which is playing an important role in social communication and promotion.
The government has decided to build an underground distribution system in major cities. The state-owned power distribution companies DPDC and DESCO have adopted several plans to establish underground distribution sub-stations and supply-lines to switch to a modern underground power-distribution system.
Public-Private Partnership (PPP) in Transmission
The government has decided to implement electricity transmission projects under PPP for the first time.
The Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (SREDA)
Established in 2012, SREDA aims to promote renewable energy, energy efficiency and to mitigate risks associated with natural calamities stemming from global warming in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh Energy and Power Research Council (EPRC)
EPRC has been established to attract international experts who can help to create in-country expertise through scientific collaboration. It will strengthen and mobilise our research capabilities at universities, public/private research organisations, and industry practitioners as well as assist individual entrepreneurs to develop new technologies and innovative solutions.
Bangladesh Power Management Institute (BPMI)
BPMI came into operation last year with the goal of providing technical skills training and capacity-building to create efficient manpower for both public and private sectors companies in the power sector. The campus is being built in the suburb of Keraniganj over 25 acres of land.
This concludes the first part of this two-part op-ed. The next part discusses the challenges we face in the power sector and how to overcome them.
Mohammad Hossain is the director general of Power Cell, Power Division, Ministry of Power, Energy & Mineral Resources