We cannot forget about the days of frequent power outages but those days are no more. Today almost every household has electricity and people are getting the maximum benefit from electricity. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had said earlier that electricity would be provided to every household in Bangladesh. Five 779 MW power plants have already been inaugurated and 99.5 per cent people across the country, including remote areas, now have access to electricity. This improved service of electricity is changing people's lives and as a result the wheels of the economy are moving faster.
The task of delivering electricity services to remote areas of the country was not at all easy but that difficult task and the dreams of the people has been fulfilled by the efficient leadership of Sheikh Hasina. The electricity connection has reached the isolated villages scattered in different parts of the country.
Since the formation of the government in 2009, initiatives have been taken under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina to bring about a radical change in the power sector of Bangladesh and in its continuity, electricity is reaching every household today. Initiatives were taken to rectify the irregularities in the power sector and at the same time ensure accountability and transparency and one after another different types of power plants were set up. There are now 146 power plants in the country and 119 power plants have been newly built in the last three terms of the government and it is easy to say that under the Awami League government there have been dramatic changes in the power generation sector.
The government has set a target of generating 24,000 MW of electricity by 2021 and the government has been able to reach that target in a timely manner and it can be called a revolutionary development in the power sector. If the country's power generation increases, it will have an impact on the macro-economy and the quality of life of the people will improve and people from all walks of life will be able to lead a beautiful life.
Bangladesh has multiplied its power generation capacity and at the same time the supply is being ensured 24 hours a day but there is a challenge in decreasing the price of electricity. It is true that electricity connection has been ensured in every house and at the same time the price of electricity has been increased several times which has put some pressure on the consumers so the government must take into consideration that the price of electricity should be tolerable. The government has been successful in providing electricity to every household, but at the same time ensuring affordable electricity facilities is part of the government's welfare program.
Controlling the cost of power generation is a big challenge and this challenge must be accepted by the authorities as the authorities can supply low cost electricity if the cost of power generation is low. Work on Rooppur, Matarbari, Taltoli Power Station is progressing fast and Payra Power Station has started production which will bring about a major change in the country's economy. A coal based power plant with a capacity of 1,200 MW has been built on 1600 acres of land in Matarbari. This project will start generating electricity in January 2024. A few more large power plants like Matarbari will start production in the next few years and this will make it possible to meet the revenue and expenditure deficit of the power sector. With the exception of Rooppur, the rest of the power plants are coal-based and environmentalists are concerned about this, but the government has said that these power plants are being implemented with modern technology to protect the environment. When these big power plants will start production at full capacity, the cost of power generation will be reduced and as a result power supply will be saved and people will be able to get electricity at low cost.
The establishment of large power plants and economic zones at the same time will greatly increase domestic and foreign investment in the country's industries, which will reduce unemployment and increase people's earning capacity. The amount of electricity that will be generated from the Madhumati power plant will be able to provide a lot of electricity connections to the industrial areas in the southern part of the country and this will increase financial viability of the area and increase employment.
Prior to 2009, power shortages in the country led to a standstill in industrial production and unlimited sufferings in public life due to extreme load shedding. But after 2009 Bangladesh Awami League government was able to bring a radical change in the power sector and was able to set up many power plants and now there is no problem like load shedding. Acquiring communication and infrastructural development as well as electrification capacity in the country is undoubtedly a far-sighted and courageous initiative of the government. There was a time when Bangladesh did not have the capacity to meet the demand for electricity but now Bangladesh has achieved the capacity to supply 12,000 MW more than the demand. The Government of Bangladesh has adopted a master plan for power generation by 2041.
The private sector has a huge role to play in this unprecedented success of Bangladesh's power sector and the image of the entire country has changed as a result of this huge private sector investment. At present the number of electricity consumers in the country is about four crore and the country is importing 1160 MW of electricity besides generating electricity. Per capita power generation has increased to 512 KW. Distribution system losses are much lower than before and now stand only at 8.73 per cent.
After independence, Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman focused on the development of the power sector and a paragraph was added to encourage rural electrification in the 16 articles of the Constitution of Bangladesh. However, the sincere efforts of the government to ensure various power services across the country are noticeable and at the same time the government will ensure an improved power service in the days to come. In many ways, Bangladesh is moving fast and her transformation into a developed country is just a matter of time.
Majhar Mannan, Assistant Professor, B A F Shaheen College, Kurmitola, Dhaka Cantonment