THE power crisis has taken a critical turn during the current summer. The consumers are deeply annoyed with widespread load shedding, the business people frustrated for the production shortfall in their industrial units on account of power supply disruptions.
The lingering power crisis is creating severe pressure on the country's economy. There were several moves from the government to find out an immediate solution to the nagging crisis. Yet no tangible result is visible.
However, a proposal of the Power Division -- suggesting measures for energy efficiency and alternative energy generation -- is lying idle with the Planning Commission for the past several years. Efforts have been on, over the past three years to launch a separate organisation for the purpose.
Energy experts see power saving devices as makeshift but instant solution to prevailing power crisis hampering productivity in industrial and agricultural sectors. They say there will be hardly any power shortage in the country if energy-saving complete florescent lamps (CFLs) are launched in each and every household.
Studies suggest that the energy efficient devices like CFL and some other steps can save nearly 1,500 megawatt (MW) of electricity against the current shortfall of 1,200mw. According to a conservative calculation, 800 mw to 1100 mw power can be saved instantly through introduction of the available energy efficient devices, efficient load management and staggering office hours or holiday period in commercial and industrial sectors.
The Power Cell study estimated that 273 mw can be saved through CFLs alone and the rest of the 1100 mw through load management measures and staggering or readjustment of working hours in offices or holiday period in commercial and industrial sectors. More conservatively, the peak demand to the tune of 1050 mw can be easily shifted from the peak (to off-peak) with the above-noted measures. Such steps will also help significantly reduce the electricity bill of the consumers, the study revealed.
But the experts and power officials said hardly any initiative has so far been taken to promote the "technically feasible and cost effective" energy efficiency measures despite the predictions by the Power Division about the deteriorating electricity situation for, at least, next three years and also frantic efforts by the government for raising generation capacity in a conventional manner.
More interestingly, the introduction of energy efficient measures will not require any extra investment. Rather, it will help earn additional revenue, enhance commercial viability of the sector and ensure reliable and smooth power supply. The Power Division has prepared a proposal to introduce the CFLs at the household level under an arrangement, which will enable the consumers to purchase selected quality lamps free of cost from the designated shops subject to adjustment of the price in phases with their electricity bills. However, the use of CFLs is expected to help reduce the electricity bills of the consumers but they will continue to pay the bills at the existing rate until the bulb prices are fully realised in next 11 months.
The Power Division now awaits the final approval of the authorities to float a designated organisation for regulating and exploring energy efficiency as well as renewable energy sources to introduce the system.
The government had earlier decided to import small power plants to meet the power shortfall. Of late, it was found that the process would take three to four months to materialise. Henceforth, it was deemed not feasible to meet the urgent demand. Building power plants with supplier's credit was cancelled in the face of stiff opposition from the development partners. Barge-mounted power plants could not be another option. Yet importation of those requires certain time as well. The government's decision in response to such crisis was unfortunately found to be dubiously laid down amid chronic uncertainty and hesitation.
Of late, the government has decided to seek help from the private sector. There are many generators and tiny power plants at the hands of the private operators. Projections say an additional 1000 megawatt (mw) power can be generated from these captive power units. If an agreement could be reached with the private sector operators, the government is expected to prepare modus operandi to use these to meet the power shortfall.
This process also requires some times because the government has to mobilise resources and motivate all stakeholders and persuade them to rent their units. In case of their disagreement, what will happen? Is the government going to force them to let their plants use or penalise them for their refusal? Nothing has been decided as yet and it is not known when such decision, if taken, will be made operational.
The people now realise that some alternatives to traditional power sources must be found out. They must not sit idle. Where the government is failing to act in mitigating their grievances, they need to come forward with innovative ideas. And such an innovative idea ended up recently with positive result. Reports say a group of villagers in Lalmonirhat district of northern areas have successfully launched solar energy in their households and are getting electricity round-the-clock. Not only they got rid of persisting load-shedding, they are also trying to use it for irrigation purposes. Local experts say the country could solve its existing power crisis through renewable energy sources adding 60 per cent of the total demand to the national grid.
Such an alternative use of energy should definitely encourage other incumbents to follow the suit. It is a pity that no government organisations have so far shown proper interest to use alternative sources of energy.
Alternative sources of energy such as wind power, solar, hydro-electricity, bio-mass, bio-gas fuel etc. are in use in the country on a limited scale for long. Use of solar power is very much popular in Europe - particularly in Germany where it meets 45 per cent demand of entire needs. Nearly 85 per cent of the primary energy in the USA comes from bio-energy. Experts believe 20 per cent of the world's electrical energy may come from renewable sources by 2020.
Some non-government organisations (NGOs) are trying to educate the people in Bangladesh on use of bio-gas, fossil fuel etc. For unknown reasons, these environment-friendly renewable energy sources could not be launched throughout the country. Two reasons can be cited. Firstly, the government did not come to assist such projects with a whole-hearted approach. Secondly, the NGOs could not properly motivate the people for greater use of these unconventional energy resources. Indeed, the government could never think that such renewable energy sources could be options as sources of power. It only included biogas in some foreign aided rural development projects at the insistence of the development partners. Widespread motivation towards solar and wind power is not possible by the NGOs in the absence of adequate government help.
In building necessary infrastructure for solar and wind power, the government needs to go for preparing bigger projects and seek assistance from the development partners. Since such sources of energy are eco- and environment-friendly, overseas assistance is more or less assured. The government may not find adequate returns as the power generation needs only a device -- Solar Hand System (SHS). The government may charge a nominal amount for the device and necessary infrastructure, but it can not charge for the electricity which is free everywhere.
Introduction of the energy efficient devices, efficient load management and alternative energy resources will go a long way in mitigating the country's nagging power crisis.