Bangladesh to shut diesel-run power plants, two-hour load shedding every day

The government has decided to roll out a series of tough new measures to avert an economic crisis in the face of a volatile energy market.

Published : 18 July 2022, 07:16 AM
Updated : 18 July 2022, 01:21 PM

In light of the skyrocketing prices of fuel oil amid the war in Ukraine, Bangladesh is suspending operations at diesel-run power plants. Fuel stations will also be closed for a day every week.

According to the Power Development Board's estimates, gas fuels 50.84 percent of the total power generation, furnace oil 28 percent and diesel 6 percent, while coal-fired plants produce 7.89 percent of the country's electricity. The new energy-saving policy is likely to create a shortfall of around 1,500 megawatts of power a day.

To offset the deficit, the authorities are set to ration electricity through rolling power cuts for up to two hours every day. The new load shedding regime will start on Tuesday. Electricity distribution companies will announce area-wise timetables for outages.

The decisions were made during a meeting at the Prime Minister's Office on Monday.

The other steps that are being considered include cutting down office hours, moderating the use of air conditioners and reducing the fuel consumption of vehicles.

"The most significant aspect of our discussion centred on reducing power generation in order to bring down costs to a sustainable level. We have decided to suspend power generation using diesel for the time being. It will save a lot of money,” Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, the prime minister's energy adviser, said at a media briefing on Monday.

"We are planning to close petrol pumps once a week from tomorrow," State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid said.

Bangladesh has been grappling with a power crunch as the war in Ukraine continues to drive up the cost of fuel in the international market.

The state minister had previously suggested hiking fuel prices in the country to keep in step with the global market.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also stressed the need for austerity in electricity consumption as rising costs forced a rollback in power production.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has thrown the global energy market into turmoil, just as it was showing signs of recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. And Bangladesh is feeling the effects of surging prices.

Imports account for almost all of Bangladesh's fuel oil stock, on which, 90 percent of the transport sector and 34 percent of power generation are dependent. On the other hand, the government has also reduced the number of LNG purchases due to the increase in prices.

Although government subsidies have gone up, the rising prices of fuel have resulted in the rollback of the country's power production.

The rapid rise in the value of the dollar, which crossed Tk 100 again, has also put a strain on Bangladesh's foreign exchange reserves.

Economists warn that a deficit in the dollar reserves could trigger a Sri Lanka-style crisis.

Comparing the current situation in the country to that during the Liberation War, Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury said, “We have to face this crisis with patience. Everyone should be economical in their use of electricity and energy."