Business & Economy

Bangladesh goes for power austerity amid energy crisis

Dhaka, Jul 8 (EFE).- Bangladesh has restricted electricity consumption across the country from Friday to cope with a shortage of gas supplies to power plants amid to rising prices, a measure that comes into effect just ahead of the Islamic festival of Eid-ul-Adha.

In the latest measures announced Thursday, the government imposed a ban on illumination at all sorts of events at homes, community centers, shopping malls and both government and private-sector offices.

Saiful Islam, a deputy secretary of the government who signed the order, told EFE that the measures would remain in place until further notice.

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s energy adviser Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury told reporters in a briefing that they were considering a few other measures, including reducing office hours, to reduce power consumption.

The other planned measures include reducing the use of air conditioners, keeping their temperature above 25 degree Celsius and asking people to complete wedding celebrations by 7 pm, he added.

Earlier in June, the government had ordered all shops and malls to shut by 8pm, although the decision had been postponed temporarily to facilitate the businesses ahead of the Eid-ul-Adha festival.

Government officials have said that the measures were taken as the country was facing a supply shortage of gas for power plants, which hampered power production.

About 60 per cent of the country’s power plants are fired by gas.

According to the Power Development Board of Bangladesh, at least 24 of the country’s 152 power plants in operation are currently facing gas supply shortages.

Junior minister for power, energy, and mineral resources, Nasrul Hamid, told reporters earlier this week that the supply of gas to the power plants dropped to 900mmcf against the demand of around 1,600mmcf.

The supply shortage came as the government stopped buying liquefied natural gas from international spot markets due to high prices, especially after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

Energy expert and professor of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, Mohammad Tamim, said the problem of gas supply shortage for Bangladesh power plants was unlikely to go anytime soon.

“Until oil and gas prices are reduced in the world market, this crisis will continue. The problem could be solved by raising local gas production, but that will also take time,” Tamim told EFE.

Tamim said that the government could solve the problem by raising power tariffs but that would create an economic problem.

“Austerity is a better option than increasing price at the moment,” he said. “Power can be supplied through raising price but that will reduce people’s buying capacity and raise inflation.”

Fahmida Khatun, Executive Director of the independent think-tank Centre for Policy Dialogue, warned of a greater impact of the power crisis if it lingered too long.

“If there is a crisis, production in factories will get affected, the export will get reduced. And if exports are reduced, foreign exchange reserve will be affected,” she said.

Energy adviser to Consumer Association of Bangladesh, Shamsul Alam, said that government’s dependency on gas imports has led to the present crisis.

“The government lacked farsightedness by depending on import without increasing our own production,” he said.

According to the latest data, Bangladesh on Thursday faced a shortfall of 450 megawatts of power as the country’s power plants produced 12,528 megawatts against the demand for 12,978 megawatts. EFE

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