Humayun Rashid is one of the founding members of Energypac with 37 years of experience and contribution in trading, manufacturing and distribution of different types of transformers and electrical products as a major power and energy solution provider.
The managing director of Energypac Power Generation, in an exclusive interview with the Dhaka Tribune’s SM Abrar Aowsaf discusses the impact of LPG prices fixed by the government on the energy sector, challenges the sector is facing, and suggested solutions to the problem of power disruptions outside major cities.
The Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC) recently fixed the retail prices of LPG for private companies. How do you think will this affect the industry? What do you think would be the ideal price of LPG for the private sector?
The first problem with the price fixed by the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC) is that they have calculated the price in consideration of last month’s contract price (CP). If MRP is to be set, then factors such as cost of finance, interest variables, transportation cost, the cost required for investment by the dealers and distributors, and minimum profit facility of the retailers must be taken into account.
Moreover, one important thing to consider in this regard is the tax. This year there is no tax, but it may be imposed next year. If imposed, it would be a new variable that must be taken into consideration. Considering all these, it can be said that the pricing that has been done by BERC avoiding all these factors is not truly justified in reality.
What challenges is the energy sector of Bangladesh currently facing?
There are challenges in the energy sector of all the countries in the world. However, the government has properly addressed and balanced all kinds of energy needs, including energy security, so we have not had to face big challenges so far.
But, we have to map out future plans keeping alternate energy and ways of exploring new sources of energy in mind, and we have to increase dependency on alternative energy.
The world is moving towards a more renewable approach to energy. But in Bangladesh, it is still fossil-fuel-based. What is your opinion on this, and how can Bangladesh too shift towards using renewable sources to meet its energy needs?
There is no denying that Bangladesh, as well as the whole world, will remain dependent on fossil fuels for the next 20 or 30 years. Let me say why. As Bangladesh is an agriculture-based country, we do not have abundant land required for solar energy.
The government still has a commitment to address at least 10% of total energy needs through renewable energy by 2040. The government, in the meantime, is trying to produce renewable energy in chars and other areas inappropriate for agricultural activities. I think this shift will eventually happen, but it will take time.
What do you think the future of the energy sector will look like?
We have to address the current power generation issues so that we can ensure quality power transmission and distribution. Along with quality power and renewable energy, we need storage facilities and improved transmission and distribution facilities to make the energy sector more stable in the days to come. Otherwise, someday energy supply may get disrupted all of a sudden. The government needs to plan beforehand to avoid such a situation.
How do you think the lack of a good transmission and distribution system is affecting the power plants?
As mentioned earlier, transmission and distribution are still very challenging in our country. We have to move towards high-voltage transmission; only then will we be able to guarantee transmission from the farthest corner of the northern region to the southern region. It will also increase reliability.
Along with transmission, if we cannot address other things related to distribution, instrumentation, control, and protection, then we cannot keep up with the times and move forward reaping benefits of the imminent modern technologies.
Bangladesh is set to achieve 100% electrification this year. Do you think the country can meet the electricity demand — both in terms of quantity and quality?
This is the greatest good news for us that Bangladesh is all set to achieve 100% electrification. Once it is completed, then the light of civilization will reach the whole country. The light of education, culture, automation, and innovation will benefit even someone from the rural backwater.
Consequently, future generations and the country will move forward. However, in many places of our country, there are problems such as low voltage, power cuts, and lack of reliable power supply. To be particular, many factories are also suffering due to maintenance problems. We need to install locally-manufactured equipment to reduce this kind of problem. Only then, the reliability will increase.
What do you think can be done to reduce frequent electricity outages outside major cities?
Our engineers are too obsessed with equipment manufactured abroad. They have to overcome this obsession. If they can do so and lean towards local products, then the incidence of electricity failure and disruptions will decrease manifolds.
For example, if you buy a transformer manufactured in Germany and it suddenly goes out of service for technical problems within six months of purchase, then it will take another 6 months to get it fixed and avail the warranty facility from the manufacturer. On the other hand, if you buy something from a local manufacturer, then you can get better service and warranty support, which will eventually increase reliability.
Which ongoing energy projects of the government do you think will have the greatest impact on the sector in the next few years?
We have many projects underway in the country, such as Matarbari power plant, Payra coal-fired power plant, and Rampal coal-fired power station, and the government has rightly addressed these. When these power plants come into operation, it will increase the reliability of power in our country. With the completion of these projects, the government will be able to ensure an uninterrupted stable supply of quality and reliable power for the citizens of the country in the near future.