THE power, energy and mineral resources ministry’s proposal to move from coal to liquefied natural gas for power generation appears to be a shift from one form of fossil fuel to another which will continue to take a toll on the environment and people. When experts have for long urged the government to switch to clean renewable energy for power generation, the plan to use liquefied natural gas is disappointing. A Centre for Policy Dialogue study has appreciated the power ministry’s proposal to abandon coal-based plants, but criticised the proposal, instead, for the use of liquefied natural gas, which cannot be an alternative to coal as environmental damage caused by the liquefied natural gas is almost equal to what coal causes. Besides, power generated from liquefied natural gas would be equally costly. The government which is reported to be disinclined towards renewable energy-based power generation on the grounds of cost should take into account the cost of fossil fuel-based projects and their environmental impacts.
The study shows that the government could save a huge amount of money by revising its power policy and by withdrawing from coal-based power. It says that about $3.3 billion could be saved if there is no coal import for power. Moreover, if the government can properly revise its power policy and sort out issues of overcapacity, capacity payment and the gap between power generation and distribution, it can save at least the subsidy it now pays. Bangladesh already has about 40 per cent overcapacity in generation, against a minimum of 15 per cent, which suggests a wide gap between power generation capacity, demand and transmission and distribution. Bangladesh has the capacity to generate about 21,000MW of electricity while the demand fluctuates between about 10,000MW and about 6,000MW. The government’s disproportionate attention to and investment on increasing generation capacity, neglecting the development of transmission and distribution infrastructure, has left the development of the power sector largely lop-sided.
Bangladesh, as a signatory to the Paris Agreement, is meant to generate 100 per cent electricity from renewable energy by 2050 as it has pledged in the Climate Vulnerable Forum. While meeting the energy need is a high priority of the government, ensuring that energy generation has less disastrous impact on the environment should also be high on government agenda. The government must, in such a situation, set its power policy on the right track. As the country has a huge overcapacity in power, the government must not rush to select an alternative energy source which could harm the environment.
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