Bangladesh is moving towards energy self-sufficiency at a breakneck speed. The government has taken up several mega projects for generating electricity, and now the work on all those projects is going on in full swing. Construction work for Rampal Power Plant project started as soon as the assurance of funding came in April. Land development will begin within 6-7 months to install a power plant on the Moheshkhali Island.
Meanwhile, China is ready for investing in the Payra power plant. The government, however, is waiting for signing a commercial agreement with Exim Bank to get the project going. Construction of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal is set to begin in September. This is how the state minister for power, energy and mineral resources, Nasrul Hamid, briefed journalists on May 4 at his office in the secretariat about the government’s massive effort to build an energy self-sufficient Bangladesh.
On the Rampal plant Nasrul Hamid said, “Construction work has already begun in Rampal. We have heard UNESCO’s concern in this regard and also conveyed our concern to them. UNESCO set some parameters on environmental grounds. It can monitor whether we are complying with all those specified parameters.” By now, the land acquisition process for the Moheshkhali Power Plant has been completed. Land development process is now afoot. Hamid said, “We will go for main construction work of the power plant once land development process is completed. Tender has been floated for the construction of the plant.”
On Payra Power Plant the state minister said, “We have already received Chinese investment fund for construction of the plant. In this regard, we hope to ink a commercial deal with Exim Bank in the quickest possible time.” He further said, “The Payra project is an iconic project for us, because for the first time Bangladesh is going to implement such a large coal-fired power plant in corporation with China. The construction work has already begun. With the implementation of the project, the existing friendly bilateral relations between Bangladesh and China will be further strengthened.”
Moreover, Bangladesh is all set to build its first LNG terminal on Moheshkhali Island in Cox’s Bazar. The government has already signed a deal with a US-based energy company to set up this terminal. The state minister said, “As the coming months of monsoon will not be a suitable time to initiate work in the Bay of Bengal, infrastructure development for the LNG terminal will begin in September. And it is hoped that the construction companies will finish the task by March 2018.” The government aims to set up four land-based LNG terminals and one or two floating storage and re-gasification units, he added. The government seems firmly on target in fulfilling its goal to bring power to every home. So far 80 percent people can avail themselves of electric supply. “We hope by 2018 every household in the country will be electrified,” said the state minister for power and energy.
About the recent collapse in the power grid, which caused widespread power cuts, he said, “The grid failed due to technical glitch. However, we formed a four-member probe committee to investigate the exact reason. Necessary steps are being taken to avert such a collapse in future.” About the progress in offshore gas and oil exploration in the Bay of Bengal, Nasrul Hamid said, “We are in the process of procuring a survey vessel, which will be useful in extracting marine resources.” Meanwhile, he added, “We discovered a new gas filed at Sundalpur. We can get 10MMC gas from it per day. Besides, we will import LPG gas from various countries. Qatar will be the largest source of importing LPG.”
When it comes to extracting gas and other mineral resources, Bangladesh is primarily dependent on foreign companies. Asked whether it is possible to rely more on concerned local institution by increasing its capacity, Nasrul Hamid said, “Bapex alone cannot do so many things. It has to work according to its capacity. I think Bapex should be kept in managerial position because when the reserve of natural gas will decrease gradually, it will have nothing much left to do. However, if we want to make Bapex an international organization, then we need at least 10 more years. We have to completely overhaul existing guidelines and salary structure of the staterun organization.” He informed that a good number of foreign and local companies are presently working not only to construct new power plants but also to improve the existing electricity supply chain. Many countries including China, Singapore, America, India, and Australia want to invest in the country’s power sector.
Bangladesh is almost solely dependent on fossil fuels to generate power. Power generation through natural gas and furnace oil, both of which are finite resources, is not only harmful for environment but also unsustainable in the long run. That is why there is a growing call for escalating investment in renewable energy. In this regard Nasrul Hamid said, “The world is fast shifting toward renewable energy, but the situation is a bit different here in Bangladesh. It is still expensive for us. Moreover, setting up solar power plant requires vast acres of land and it is a big challenge in a densely populated country like Bangladesh.” He continued by saying, “So far we are capable of producing 450 megawatt electricity from renewable energy sources. We are now working to generate 1000 megawatt electricity from this sector.” In the end the state minister painted a rosy picture of the country’s economic growth. He said, “At present our economy is growing very fast. Among the economically developed countries in South Asia, Bangladesh can boast of being in a relatively better position. We are even leading in some areas. Within five to six years, our GDP growth rate will cross the 8 percent-mark.”