Energy crisis forces Dhaka to cut power
The government has decided to impose power cuts for at least one hour a day to reduce fuel costs. The possibility of closing petrol stations is also under consideration. But experts warn measures could result in an increase in demand.
Dhaka (AsiaNews) - In Bangladesh there will be power cuts of at least one hour starting today. The government has decided this in an attempt to reduce costs and stem the country's current energy crisis.
The interruptions will occur between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. Offices, courts, and places of worship have been advised to limit the use of air conditioning, while commercial businesses will not be allowed to use electricity after 8 p.m.
Diesel-fuelled power stations will be temporarily closed, but the government is also considering closing petrol stations for one day a week and reducing working hours in offices. Civil servants may be required to restrict the use of private cars.
All these assessments were made yesterday during a meeting held in the office of PM Sheikh Hasina. Present at the meeting were Energy Advisor Tawfiq-e-Ilahi Chowdhury and Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid, along with the heads of the relevant government institutions. Public Administration Minister Farhad Hossain said that the government is also considering mandating work from home: 'Office hours could be reduced or people will work from home. A decision will be made within a week so that people do not suffer'.
The power cuts are expected to cause a power shortage of about 1,200 megawatts per day. The demand for electricity in Bangladesh is 15 thousand megawatts and at the moment the maximum production is only 13 thousand.
According to experts, this will not produce any particular economic savings: with the closure of the diesel power plants, the use of generators (also powered by diesel) could increase, while the announcement of the closure of petrol pumps could cause an increase in demand, with crowds of people determined to secure sufficient supplies of fuel. Considering also that government buildings are not energy efficient, analysts believe that the government's measures thus posed are unrealistic.
Bangladesh imports almost all of its fuel. Most of it is used for transport and 34% for power generation. Due to the high price of crude oil, which has risen to over USD 100 per barrel, even petrol-fuelled power plants are unable to operate at full capacity. Many gas-fired power plants have been shut down due to fuel shortages.
In the region, besides Sri Lanka, which has been in default for months, Laos and Pakistan are also facing energy crises characterised by frequent blackouts. Fuel importation is increasingly difficult due to low foreign exchange reserves.