Gas supply suspension to industries, CNG stations

Dhaka,  Wed,  20 September 2017
Published : 19 Aug 2017, 21:25:31
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Editorial

Gas supply suspension to industries, CNG stations

There are strong reasons to suspect suitability of the reported move of the government to suspend gas supply to industries and compressed natural gas (CNG) filling stations between 5:00pm and 11:00 pm on a regular basis. A high-level meeting held at the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) recently decided to stop supply of gas to industries and CNG stations for six hours with a view to making available increased volume of gas to the power plants. In a situation where a large demand-supply gap exists in case of gas, the government has been in a very difficult situation. It could not meet the ever-increasing demand for this cheap fuel from various sectors. Now that the energy ministry has decided to feed an increased number of gas-based power plants during peak hours at the cost of industries and CNG filling stations, a few problems would inevitably crop up. 

While a number of gas-based power plants are being kept out of operation due to short supply of gas, the government has allowed the installation of a large number of cost-intensive rental power plants in the private sector to fill in the gap. It has even digested lots of criticisms for engaging itself in the stop-gap arrangement using rentals to beef up power supply. Notwithstanding the fact that the introduction of rental plants has eased the power crisis to a noticeable extent, the power subscribers are facing a double whammy on account of such plants. They are paying higher power tariff, on one hand, and paying a substantial sum indirectly from the state coffer as subsidy, on the other. 

The power subscribers have also reasons to get confused by the information that the policymakers provide from time to time on power situation. It is claimed that the generation capacity has been increased to around 15000 megawatt (MW) over the last eight years against the current demand for 12500MW. But actual generation has always been far short of the demand. Last week the actual generation hovered at around 8500 MW. The failure to run the gas-based power plant is cited as the prime cause of the shortfall. But the move to feed those plants keeping industries and CNG filling stations starved of gas would hurt production in industries, particularly in apparel units. Moreover, the queue before the CNG filling stations would become even longer, contributing further to the problem of the capital city's traffic congestion. 

The energy situation, as the current state of things amply indicates, is unlikely to improve before the import of liquefied natural gas (LNG). By the end of the next calendar year, two LNG terminals are expected to be ready for handling the imported LNG. The government, according to a report published in this paper last Saturday, has located a potential source---Energy Security Fund--- for meeting the recurring import cost of LNG. In view of this, one may reasonably expect the government to look into the possibility of not disturbing gas supply to industries and CNG filling stations during the interim period and wait for the launching of the LNG supply system. In the meanwhile, it could take necessary steps to ensure operation of the rental power plants that remain idle under different pretexts and devour funds in the name of 'capacity payment'. If the government adopts such a course of action, there is possibility that power supply situation would be near normal.  
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Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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