Distributive policy

Urgent need to focus on national interests in power sector policy

DEVELOPMENT in the electricity sector, aided by a group of policymakers and ministry officials, as a Transparency International Bangladesh report released on May 11 says, has plagued Bangladesh and its people with corruption and to irregularities when all this serves the interests of influential people at home and abroad. The report, which assessed the first three major coal and liquefied natural gas power projects – the 350 MW coal-fired Barishal power station in Barguna, the 1,320 MW coal-fired Banskhali power station in Chattogram and the 600 MW liquefied natural gas from Matarbari Cox’s Bazar power station – in February-April, suggests that energy policy involving coal and gas power plants is taken in the interest of donors and investors and that the state pays for it the price. Bangladesh has phased out 10 coal-fired power plants in 2021, but Bangladesh has an installed coal-fired power generation capacity of 1,844 MW, which would hover between 10,000 and 12,000 MW in 2030, which accounts for a quarter of the total installed capacity of Bangladesh’s power generation. The report, which says that Bangladesh has been held hostage by fossil fuel-based energy, detected corruption involving Tk 3.90 billion in the sale of land from the three projects alone.

The two coal plants acquired 0.59 acres of land for every megawatt of installed capacity compared to 0.23 acres as happened in neighboring countries. The liquefied natural gas-fired plant acquired 0.65 acres for every megawatt of installed capacity when the standard requirement is 0.053 acres. Barishal factory is mired in corruption dealing with 156 million taka, Banskhali factory dealing with 2.55 billion taka and Matarbari factory dealing with 1.19 billion taka in transactions alone land, suggesting either the embezzlement of the money intended to be distributed to the displaced persons, or the realization of a large amount in commission of the displaced. The cost of production per unit in the three factories is up to 49% higher than in other countries such as India, Pakistan, Nepal and Australia, where the cost varies between 3 .46 Tk and 5.15 Tk. The cumulative losses in the electricity sector in 2010-2020 amount to 627.02 billion taka, with the government having to pay 117 billion taka, for example, in the past year. During all this, the government has raised the price of electricity by 91% nine times in a decade. In a situation like this, the report also questioned the power sector master plan for being repeatedly funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency and prepared by the Tokyo Electric Power Company. Although the master plan prioritized Japan’s interest in expanding fossil fuel-related activities, as the report indicates, companies with ties to the master plan’s formulation have engaged in production. , transmission and distribution of electricity.

Bangladesh, globally committed to reducing carbon emissions, has more than 25,000 MW of installed electricity capacity and half of this remains unused; and the government paid Tk 130 billion for unused electricity in FY 2021. Carbon emissions in the power sector also increased by 118% to 89 million tonnes in 2008-2019. Bangladesh must therefore review its power sector policy and involve local experts to serve the national interest and stop the influence of foreign actors on the process.