IT IS alarming that although solar power would cost up to 17 US cents a unit in Bangladesh against prices in the 2.4–10 cent ranges in other countries, the Power Development Board signed power purchase agreements with three private companies — Southern Solar Power, HDFC SinPower and EDISUN-Power Point & Haor Bangla-Korea Green Energy Ltd — in February 2016–January 2017 to buy solar power for 17 cents, or Tk 13.6, a unit for 20 years. A comparison of this with the country’s average power generation cost now shows how the price of this solar power would hit hard the masses when the supply would begin in 2018. The country’s average power generation cost now stands at 6.88 cents, or Tk 5.5, a kilowatt-hour or unit. The latest contract the power board signed with Jules Power Limited on February 9, as New Age reported on Friday, set the price at 13.9 cents a unit. The large-scale solar power projects are awarded or set to be awarded under the Speedy Supply of Power and Energy (Special Provisions) Act 2010 that indemnifies officials concerned against prosecution for awarding contracts without competitive bidding.
Consumers Association of Bangladesh’s apprehension that the government is facilitating profiteering by vested quarters which would ultimately burden people with frequent power price increases is not unjustifiable. Owners of rental power plants have already earned notoriety, particularly for their contribution to the repeated power price increases since 2011, when they came into operation, adding to the sufferings of consumers, already reeling under unabated surge in goods prices. Now the government has embarked on another project to harm the country’s renewable energy market by allowing some private companies to set up solar parks to sell power to the power board at exorbitantly high prices. Although the solar power project under private companies has been introduced in the name of quick solution to power crisis, the reality says otherwise. Allegations are also rife that this project has come into being in a dubious manner, despite growing public criticism, mostly to benefit the people tied to the ruling party.
The government needs to act on the issue without any delay. It needs to shrug off its bias towards private companies, manifested in its repeated initiatives to extend the life of the controversial speedy supply of power and energy act, enacted in 2010. It also needs to help the power board come out of its fund crisis so that the latter can redouble its efforts to implement the base-load power projects and also explore other renewable sources for immediate development as soon as possible. Above all, conscious citizens need to raise their sustained voice in this regard.
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