Financial Express print this

Ultimate energy security


ENERGY is the life-blood or soul or centre force of an economy. One can even use all these three descriptions concurrently to qualify it. Without energy, civilisation could not have bloomed nor will it survive. It will inevitably be on the reverse gear and eventually fade into a black hole, never to resurface again. Keeping this in view, all wise nations lay emphasis on their future energy security. They have been looking for alternative sources of energy- reliable and renewable. But the energy security concern of Bangladesh is minimal, if it at all exists. It is nowhere near India and Pakistan in South Asia in the matter of preparation for meeting the future energy needs from renewable sources. It is an example of blatant imprudent management of a nation state.
Non-renewable sources of energy -- like oil, gas and coal, shall exhaust; and with their progressive depletion owing to increasingly greater use, their prices shall soar. It implies that power generation plants fired by oil, gas or coal will, at some point of time, become useless. All less competitive and inefficient economies will then enter into an unending era of continually aggravating ordeal. It is this felt compulsion for having renewable sources of energy in place that has induced India and Pakistan, like many other nations, to build a string of nuclear plants and hydroelectric projects. They are working to expand their existing capacities in these spheres -- one with assistance from the US and Russia and the other from China. The controversial Tipaimukh Dam, now being constructed by India at a cost of Indian Rs 60 billion, which will definitely hurt Bangladesh in multiple ways, will generate 1500 mega watt electricity. It is an example of New Delhi's continuing efforts to reduce dependence on non-renewable energy sources and create ultimate energy security. Minus the Kaptai hydroelectric dam, which produces scanty quantity of electricity, what does Bangladesh have as its source of renewable energy? The position is indeed delicate and deplorable.
What was supposed to be Rooppur thermal power plant in the 1960s is not any more than an area with an enclosure where cattle graze leisurely. If thermal power was a felt-need about four decades ago, what miracle has happened in the intervening time to de-emphasise it now? The prevalent scarcity of funds should not restrain the authorities from immediately taking up such projects for implementation. There is a positive lesson for the country in the fact that Thailand was close to bankruptcy in the late 1990s to finance extensive improvement of its infrastructures. The country could subsequently develop itself using those infrastructures so extensively with increased local and foreign investments that it has been able to repay within about five years billions of dollars advanced in loan by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for bailing it out from that financial crisis. Thailand has boldly created one example of certain well-targeted spending by the state being beneficial and never risky.
Recognising that crippling power shortage has continued to hinder industrialisation and undercut the productivity of many of the existing industries, Bangladesh should opt for progressively increased dependence on solar and nuclear energies. Future rural electrification should be based more on solar energy, whose production cost is still higher than that of conventional power. Yet when balanced against the money lost in production shutdown due to power failure or shortages, dependence on solar energy for rural electrification will appear worthwhile. Local research on solar energy may be encouraged in the engineering universities with such a commercial arrangement, which may enthuse experts to seriously work for its further development. Since Bangladesh signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty long ago, the government may approach China and the US and other western countries for assistances to establish some nuclear plants, which would operate under International Atomic Energy Agency inspection. But must the country make serious efforts for developing renewable sources of energy before darkness descends with depletion of non-renewable energies to a dangerous level.