Power cuts are back in some areas despite fall in demand during winter

A shortage of coal and gas leads production to decrease

Faysal AtikSenior Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 17 Jan 2023, 09:06 PM
Updated : 17 Jan 2023, 09:06 PM

The frequent power cuts began in mid-2022 due to an acute energy crisis and the situation remained the same until the arrival of winter in December. Although the demand has remained low amid the cold, regular power outages have resumed. 

Consumers from different areas in Dhaka and other parts of Bangladesh reported power cuts over the last week. 

Bangladesh Power Development Board said electricity production yet again took a hit due to a shortage of coal and gas. Officials are hoping things will return to normal within a few days. 

Md Kamruzzaman Khan, a director of Petrobangla, claimed that the gas supply remained steady for the last two and a half months. PDB was asking for another 50-100 MMcf of gas per day but it had not been possible because the authorities needed to address the demand of the industries first. 

“The demand for gas is always higher than the supply. That’s nothing new. The power stations are being supplied with 850 MMcf of gas a day,” he said.

Another top Petrobangla official, who asked not to be named, said the power plants were being delivered the same volume of gas in January 2023 as in November-December 2022. 

He thinks a decline in power generation at coal and fuel oil-based plants could have caused the ongoing situation. 

According to data from the PDB, the demand for electricity on Monday peaked at 9,970 MW while the production was 9,017 MW. It resulted in a load-shedding of 952 MW across nine distribution zones. 

Monday’s load-shedding was by far the recent highest followed by 496 MW on Sunday.

An analysis of PDB data shows Rampal coal-fired power plant produced 500-624 MW of electricity through December, but recently shut off operations due to a shortage of coal. 

The six coal-based power plants in the country can generate 2,602 MW of electricity, but five of them reported a drop in production due to a lack of fuel – coal. 

Production at a 274 MW-capacity unit of the Barapukuria plant was fluctuating between 24 and 250 MW. The other two units can generate 85 MW of electricity each. 

A 307 MW coal-based station was sitting idle in Barishal due to the coal shortage.

PDB data showed production at 22 of the 68 stations slumped due to gas shortage. Some power stations were undergoing annual maintenance work. 

In 2013, the government started importing electricity from India to ensure an uninterrupted supply. Bangladesh receives 1000 MW of electricity from West Bengal’s Baharampur through Kushtia’s Bheramara, while another 160 MW enters Bangladesh via Cumilla from Tripura’s Surjamani. 

SM Wazed Ali Sarder, a PDB member, said a drop in gas supply along with a fault in a power station in India cutting the supply by 150 MW were the reasons behind his. 

Officials of Dhaka distribution agencies DPDC and DESCO said the power supply had been lower than demand over the past week. But the supply and demand were equal on some days as well. 

DPDC Managing Director Bikash Dewan said their distribution zones had to stop supply to some areas because they got 100 MW less than the demand on Tuesday. “We’ve heard things will return to normal within 2-3 days.” 

DESCO Managing Director Kausar Ameer Ali said its customers experienced power cuts due to a supply shortage of 50 MW on Monday. “That was not the case today.” 

FACE THE REALITY? 

When the government reintroduced rolling power outages to cut fuel import cost six months ago, the production was 11,500-12,000 MW against a demand for 13,000 MW. 

The government took some other measures to tackle the situation, including cutting work hours, controlling the use of air-conditioners and rescheduling weekly holidays for industrial areas. 

Bangladesh, however, has now started to experience power cuts again when the demand is lower than 10,000 MW a day.

Shamsul Alam, the energy advisor to the Consumers Association of Bangladesh, described the latest power cuts as a sign of weaknesses in the sector. “We are amid a terrible energy insecurity.” 

This is the result of a lack of consistency in decision-making, according to him. “The situation would have been worse had it not been winter.” 

Although officials hope the situation will improve, Shamsul said their expectation does not reflect reality. 

“They had said the situation would ease in September, but it didn’t. It’s not surprising, because this is the reality. We had earlier said that we would not have enough funds to buy fuel oil.” 

The energy expert alleged the government was not taking decisions scientifically to manage the power sector. “The things that happened in the sector in the name of development did not follow any rules.”

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher