Coal remains an alternative fuel amid gas shortage

Special Correspondent

4 June, 2021 12:00 AM printer

Finance ministry’s policy statement reveals energy plans which suggest coal continues to be used in power generation. Experts urge to revisit the electricity generation plans

Is the government moving away from its stance of abandoning coal as an energy source? Finance ministry’s policy statement may give you the answer.

“Considering the shortage of gas in the country, the use of coal as an alternative fuel in power generation is being considered,” said the statement released on Thursday.

Earlier, the government said it would abandon 13 coal-based power plants out of 17 in a bid to build a green energy sector.

The government has taken 17 coal-fired power projects to generate around 17,000 megawatt of electricity by 2030 when the country’s electricity demand will reach 34,000 MW.

In February 2021, the Power Division sent a proposal to Prime Minister Office (PMO) to seek policy level decision about 13 coal-fired power plants.

According to the energy experts, the government should revisit its present stance as the financing of coal-fired plants and transportation of coals will be difficult in the coming days.

“I think the government should revisit the series of coal-based power plants. It needs to think of fund mobilization for coal-based plants and the current electricity demand,” Prof M Tamim, Dean of Engineering Faculty at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) told the daily sun in an immediate reaction to the budget.

He said the demand of electricity in industries had been at a standstill for last three years.

“It’s high time to reconsider the growth of electricity demand during the pandemic,” Prof Tamim said.

Prof Shamsul Alam, energy adviser at the Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), urged the government to review the power sector’s master plan as it brought unusual level of burden on consumers.               

Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said total power generation capacity of the country (including captive and renewable energy) has been increased to 25,227 MW as of May 2021.

In his budget speech Thursday, the minister said, “Bangladesh has been graduated into a lower-middle-income country from the low income country. It is a well-known fact that one of the driving forces of Bangladesh's sustainable economic growth is the provision for uninterrupted supply of electricity.”

“Following the implementation of the Prime Minister's pledge to deliver electricity to every household through integrated development of production, transmission and distribution system, 99 percent of the total population of the country has been brought under the electricity coverage,” he said.

Kamal said to meet the growing demand for power in Bangladesh, 38 power plants with a capacity of 14,115 MW are under construction, and contracts have been signed for the construction of another 20 power plants with a capacity of 2,961 MW.

Due to the strict measures taken by the government, the system loss in electricity has been reduced from 14.33 percent to 8.73 percent, the minister said.

“Among the mega-projects taken in the power generation sector are the Rampal 1,320 MW coal-based Maitri Super Thermal Power Plant project, Matarbari 1,200 MW Ultra-super Critical Power Plant project and Rooppur 2,400 MW nuclear power plant project,” Kamal said.

On the other hand, after the construction of a 1,320 MW thermal power plant at Payra, the commercial power generation has started.

Currently, 722 MW of electricity is being generated from renewable energy, he said, adding, solar power plants and wind power plants are being installed to generate 10 percent of the total electricity demand of the country from renewable energy.

In line with the process of developing the country’s socio-economic condition, the government is striving to meet the growing demand for energy and increase the use and supply of sustainable and safe energy, Kamal said.

Of the 27 gas fields discovered in the country, 20 are currently in operation, he added.

In 2009, natural gas production in Bangladesh was 1,744 million cubic feet, which has now increased to about 2,525 million cubic feet.

“The remaining demand is being met by importing LNG or liquefied natural gas, which is added to the national grid. To this end, two floating LNG terminals with a total capacity of 1,000 million cubic feet have been set up at Maheshkhali in Cox's Bazar district with a capacity of 500 million cubic feet each.”

After re-gasifying imported LNG, an average of 600 to 700 million cubic feet of natural gas is being added to the national grid daily.

In addition, to increase the supply of LNG, there is an initiative to set up a land-based LNG terminal with a capacity of 1,000 million cubic feet per day in the Matarbari area of Cox's Bazar district, according to the finance minister.

To enhance and consolidate energy security, the government has taken steps to increase fuel oil reserves, he said, adding, in 2009, the country's fuel storage capacity was 8.94 lakh metric tons, which has been increased to about 13.20 million metric tons.

“Steps have been taken to increase it further,” he said.

“I propose to allocate Tk 27,484 crore for the Power Division and Energy and Mineral Resources Division in the next fiscal year, which was Tk 26,758 crore in the current fiscal year,” the minister said.

Prof M Tamim said the country’s energy sector has been neglected and being made import-dependent.

“If such things continue, it may create pressure on the balance of payment in the coming days,” Tamim said.

He called upon the government to come out from the oil-fired power plants whose terms expired.