She also outlined the ministry’s future challenges and ways to tackle them.
State Minister Nasrul Hamid Bipu briefed journalists on Thursday after her first visit to the ministry in two-and-a-half-years.
“The Prime Minister told ministry officials that new technology to extract coal may become available soon. We will wait for it,” he said quoting the Prime Minister.
Hasina’s directive comes amid controversies on whether Bangladesh should go for open-pit mining along with importing coal to meet increasing power demands.
Hamid was, however, silent on coal extraction issues. He also did not explain how thermal power production could be raised while waiting for ‘new technology’.
He said the Prime Minister wanted protection of farmers’ land first and coal extraction to be left to the future.
Hamid said Hasina, who also holds the energy portfolio, had ordered the stepping up of coal extraction research.
State-run oil, gas and mineral resources corporation Petrobangla claims Bangladesh has five coal mines with an estimated combined reserve of 3.1 billion tonnes.
Currently, an estimated 1.65 million tonnes of coal is produced annually from one of the mines through underground mining.
A group of experts, environmentalists, various Leftist fronts oppose open-pit mining which pollutes the environment, lays waste to arable land and displaces the habitants.
Despite a matter of high priority, the government has failed to formulate a coal policy in the past decade.
About 75 percent of Bangladesh’s power comes from gas while coal is used to produce less than 3 percent.
The government claims electricity generation increased nearly 5,000MW over the past five years. A ‘Festival of Light’ was held in Dhaka last year to mark the production of 10,000MW, hitting a new milestone in the country. It also plans to raise power production to 30,000MW by 2030, half of which would come from coal.
However, according to information presented in Parliament last June, around 40 percent people still do not have access to electricity.
Bipu said the Prime Minister had directed the setting up of a coal-fired power plant near the Paira Port in southern Patuakhali.
The government recently faced a wave of protests when it decided to go ahead with a 1,320MW thermal power plant at Rampal, near the Sunderbans.