Perfect efficiency key to tackling energy crisis
In a disappointing turn of events, it seems the load-shedding era is upon us again. On July 18, several austerity measures were decided upon during a high-level meeting at the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) in order to deal with Bangladesh's gloomy energy and power generation situation. The decisions that stood out were those of hour-long power cuts from July 19 (the countrywide schedules for which have been put up on several government websites) and of temporarily shutting down diesel-fired power plants, which contributes 5.86 percent to the country's 22,348MW electricity production capacity.
To put it simply, we are dealing with shortages of electricity, diesel and LNG (thanks to the suspension of imports due to high prices, and the lack of gas exploration for unknown reasons). All of these austerity measures from the government indicate a severe situation. And while the public must do its part to be frugal, it is up to the government and its various arms to stray from its historically wasteful approach to utilising public resources. For one, it is high time for the authorities to renegotiate its terms with the many quick rental power plants (QRPP) which, even during idle periods, rack up expenses for the government in terms of capacity charges. As such, the Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) reportedly owes the country's private power plant operators a staggering USD 1.5 billion. However, given the worryingly low state of our foreign exchange reserves, which are even more valuable right now for the country to continue importing essential items, this debt should, for now, be pushed down several notches on the government's list of priorities.
Although it is understandable that the high prices of LNG and diesel have led to their import being temporarily suspended, the government should not abandon the search for these items at cheaper prices – in case they become available, or the government manages to get a good deal on them. Here is where the government's negotiation skills will be tested. At this moment, the government needs to put its focus on utilising our limited forex reserves as efficiently as possible, and on trying to redirect as little of the burden onto the public as possible. People have already been struggling for months against rising inflation and expensive necessities. Austerity measures of reduced office operational hours, one day off for petrol pumps, and daily hour-long load-shedding are all understandable. But the government must shield the public dutifully from further repercussions of the energy crisis – by being attentive and efficient in executing its own responsibilities.