The power sector is increasingly facing challenges with regard to inefficiency, cost escalation, lack of cleaner energy-mix, poor quality of transmission and distribution, and rising financial burden, said the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) on Thursday.
Over generation capacity or reserve capacity has become a significant burden for the power sector during the 7th Five year-plan (FYP) period, the CPD added.
The challenges will likely aggravate in the 8th FYP if a lesson is not taken, Research Director of CPD Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem, said in a presentation titled "Reflections of the power sector in the upcoming 8th Five Year Plan: Perspectives on strategies and initiatives."
The think-tank hosted the expert group discussion as the National Economic Council is going to finalise the 8th FYP soon.
CPD's Executive Director Dr Fahmida Khatun, in her introductory remarks, highlighted an institutional reform in the power sector for developing a sustainable power and energy sector in the country.
The discussion was moderated by the CPD's Distinguished Fellow Professor Mustafizur Rahman.
In his presentation, Khondaker Golam Moazzem said at the beginning of the seventh FYP, the reserve power capacity was only 26.9%, which increased to 44.2% at the end of 7th FYP against the global benchmark of 10%.
Therefore, as many as 51 power plants were found to have been without any generation that forced the Bangladesh Power Development Board to pay a minimum capacity payment to individual power producers, he added.
To overcome the challenges, the CPD suggested that the authorities make a fresh demand projection for electricity for 2030 and 2041, considering the revised projection of long term industrial and overall economic growth.
It also recommended emphasising renewable energy in energy mix-policy, gradually phasing out the oil-based plants and rental power plants.
Apart from this, up-gradation of the existing grid infrastructure should be given priority in the next five year plan, it added.
Participating in the discussion, Dr M Tamim, former special assistant to the chief adviser of a caretaker government and professor at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet), said the five year plan often does not match with the power sector master plan.
"Therefore, the power sector's development forecast be done by the agencies concerned not by the Planning Commission. Moreover, the economic growth and the energy sector's growth have to be decoupled," he said.
Dr M Tamim also opined, "The next five year plan should emphasise the overall transmission grid management as we are going to generate nuclear power which is very stable compared to the existing conventional power.
However, Professor Dr M Shamsul Alam, dean at Faculty of Engineering of Daffodil International University, said no plan is enough until the sector comes out of corruption and mismanagement.
Dr Ijaz Hossain, professor at the Department of Chemical Engineering of Buet, said transmission and distribution sectors did not see the development due to the source of financing that was supposed to come from the government.
He said "Time has come to put a cap on the investment in the generation sector and put emphasis on the transmission and distribution sector."
Professor Chowdhury Md Shahriar Ahmed, assistant professor and director at the Centre for Energy Research (CER) of the United international University, said the progress of renewable energy is slow owing to a poor attention to it.
He said "Solar electricity is the most cost-effective energy generation option. Five years back, our first grid-tied solar energy's tariff was 18 cent but in recent time we have awarded a project which would cost only 7 cent. So, we need proper planning beyond our land limitation and we can generate 30,000 megawatts of electricity."
Mohammad Alauddin, chairman of the Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (Sreda) said relying only on solar energy to move to renewable energy will not be enough.
He suggested that more studies be conducted regarding opportunities for producing wind energy in Bangladesh.
Mohammad Hossain, director general at Power Cell of the Power Division of the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources, said the high reserve margin of generation is due to the low demand of power in the Covid-19 situation.
He said the government is taking due measures in addressing rising costs, inefficiency and higher financial burden on the power sector.