The Financial Express

Generous rural power connections far outstrip actual generation

Subscribers suffer for on-again, off-again electricity supply

| Updated: October 24, 2017 02:27:11

Generous rural power connections far outstrip actual generation

Generous power connections through "unplanned" network expansion in the country's rural areas have far outstripped generation, resulting in sporadic outage, sufferers said.

Inadequate and inefficient electricity-transmission system and overload in the countryside also lead to the tripping of electricity lines, they added.

Rural people are very rarely getting the benefit of the increased electricity generation due to unplanned electricity-network expansion and load growth, people familiar with the situation said.

Country's overall electricity generation has almost tripled to around 9,500 megawatts (MW) over the past eight years but supply side in the backwoods didn't improve that much, they observed.

On-again, off-again electricity supply still prevails in the rural areas. And the duration of an outage sometimes lasts several hours at a stretch, consumers alleged.

Businesses in the country's remote areas are bearing the brunt of the inadequate electricity supply, while the household consumers are suffering from scorching heat.

"We are now bound to provide residential electricity connection to any consumer within one working day and industrial connection within 28 days under government's latest directive," a senior official of the state-run Rural Electrification Board (REB) said Tuesday.

The government adopted the policy in mid-2016 aiming to ensure its target of bringing all people under electricity coverage by 2021, he said.

But the REB moved further rapidly to ensure electricity for all under its command areas by 2018, which prompted massive electricity connections in rural areas, said another official, requesting anonymity.

Currently, the number of REB's power consumers is around 20.01 million, which is 75.28 per cent of the national total, Talukder Rume, REB's Press Consultant, told the FE Wednesday.

He said some 16 upazilas across the country, under the REB coverage areas, had already been brought under 100 per cent electrification.

The REB has set a target to bring 162 upazilas under 100 per cent electrification by 2017 and 460 by 2018, reaching the target of ensuring cent-percent electrification in all upazilas under its command much ahead of the government-set timeline up to 2021.

Mr Rume said electricity-supply situation in REB areas around Dhaka is better than in the rural areas.

But mere providing new electricity connections without considering the generation capacity in rural areas is causing frequent power outage and load shedding in rural areas, a senior official of Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) told the FE.

The distribution companies are compelled to go for rationing electricity to cope with an increasing demand against limited generation, he added.

Otherwise, he noted, the electricity-transmission system will collapse.

Power supply to some far-flung areas is also hampered due to transmission- system constraint, a senior REB official said.

He said electricity demand in Satkhira area is currently around 81 MWs against the transmission capacity of 64 MWs, which compels REB to shed at least 17MW load.

There are also allegations that despite having de-rated electricity- generation capacity of around 12,922 MWs, country's overall electricity generation hovers around 9,200 megawatts due to inadequate transmission system. And that also contributes to poor electricity supply to rural areas.

But a senior official of the state-run Power Grid Company of Bangladesh Ltd (PGCB) said the country's existing transmission system has sufficient capacity to take the load.

He rather blamed fuel-supply constraints, especially of natural gas, for short supply of electricity.

According to statistics of the state-run BPDB, electricity generation to the tune of 1,537 MWs was hampered only due to gas crisis, as on October 8, he stated.

Petrobangla could not provide 374 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) of natural gas to 11 gas-fired power plants, thus halting electricity generation of around 1,615 MWs as on October 9.

The BPDB in its statement, however, does not acknowledge having any load-shedding in any of its total nine zones across the country.

The board claimed that it was supplying electricity to full demand in its nine zones, namely, Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna, Rajshahi, Comilla, Mymensingh, Sylhet, Barisal and Rangpur.

Electricity demands of Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna, Rajshahi, Comilla, Mymensingh, Sylhet, Barisal and Rangpur were 3,451 MWs, 984 MWs, 907 MWs, 906 MWs, 816 MWs, 607 MWs, 408 MWs, 194 MWs, and 423 MWs respectively as on October 10, as stated by the power board.

When contacted, energy adviser of the Consumers' Association of Bangladesh (CAB) Prof M Shamsul Alam said, "Electricity-supply situation in rural areas is the worst due to unplanned growth in electricity-network expansion and load."

He alleged the government kept the electricity supply 'intentionally' low, resulting in load-shedding in rural areas.

Mr Alam also blamed the state-run distribution companies for not stating electricity scarcity correctly in their respective areas because of the woes of rural electricity.

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