The government is prioritising manufacturing and agriculture sectors for supplying gas at this time of austerity initiated to deal with the current energy crisis and thus protect the economy, prime minister's Energy Adviser Dr Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury said on Thursday.
So, others have to sacrifice a bit, for now, he noted.
Mitigating the current energy crisis is a big challenge for the world, and it is more challenging for developing countries like Bangladesh, Tawfiq-e-Elahi said while speaking at a seminar dubbed "Energy Security for Sustainable Development".
"You can rest reassured that if we can supply gas to industries and the agriculture sector, we will overcome the crisis," he said at the event organised by the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI).
On the austerity measures and organised load shedding, Dr Ahmad Kaikaus, principal secretary to the prime minister, said, "In Bangladesh what we have planned is to protect the people from the global crisis. It does not mean we are finishing out. We need to be aware of this."
Pointing out that the present crisis has not originated in Bangladesh, he said, "It is a global crisis – an economic crisis – and everybody is suffering all over the world. Developed countries are suffering more than us if we take the inflation rate into account."
Ahmad Kaikaus also said energy planning is always volatile. "For example, two to three years back, we thought that spot LNG would be a competitive option as it was cheaper then. But now we see that the decision was wrong."
About energy security, he said the prices of coal and gas are linked with oil prices.
"You may claim that we would not have to import LNG if we had more coal power projects. But coal-dependent power generation could not have been a safe option, because the cost of generating each unit of coal-based power now stands at around Tk11," he explained.
Dr Ijaz Hossain, panel adviser to the FBCCI, and former professor at Buet, presented the keynote paper while FBCCI President Md Jashim Uddin chaired the seminar.
In his keynote speech, Dr Ijaz depicted the current gas and electricity consumption scenario. He suggested eight steps to attain energy security, which include vigorous gas exploration, increasing coal use both in power generation and industries, and increasing cross-border electricity imports and energy efficiency.
Dr Badrul Imam, former professor of Geology at Dhaka University, said the present energy crisis could be avoided if we could conduct enough gas exploration in the local fields.
He also stated that Bangladesh is one of the least explored countries among the prospective gas basins in the world.
"The energy crisis will be more acute in the future if we fail to expedite exploration work immediately," added Dr Badrul Imam.
Mohammad Ali Khokon, president of the Bangladesh Textile Mills Association and a director of the FBCCI, said, "In spite of having no local source of raw materials, the country's RMG sector has been on the top in global rankings because of cheaper gas that was like a raw material to us. But this energy is gradually getting costlier, with its supply dwindling.
"We could have exported an additional $5 billion worth of garments if we were supplied with the required gas."
He suggested stopping pipeline gas distribution to domestic consumers outside Dhaka in order to ensure uninterrupted gas supply to the industrial sector.
Md Saiful Islam, president of the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dhaka, emphasised the need for coal production to secure the primary energy supply for power generation.
While speaking about the oil-fired power plants in the country, Mollah M Amzad Hossain, editor of Energy & Power Magazine, said the duration of load shedding could have been more than two hours, had there not been these power plants.
Opposing the opinion on coal exploration, Siddique Zobair, former additional secretary to the government, said solar can mitigate the energy crisis as it can now be used for 24 hours through net metering.
Humayun Rashid, chairman of the FBCCI Standing Committee on Power Energy and Utilities, Mostofa Azad Chowdhury Babu, senior vice president of the FBCCI, and Abul Kasem Khan, director of the FBCCI, among others, also spoke at the open discussion.