The Consumers Association of Bangladesh on Sunday said that the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission should reduce power tariff to take the burden of illogical expenses in power sector off the consumers shoulder.
The association presented an analysis at a press conference at Dhaka Reporters Unity laying out a detailed argument against raising power tariff as proposed by state-owned power producer, transmitter and distributors.
‘There is no scope for increasing power tariff,’ said the association president Ghulam Rahman as he opened the press conference in the morning. ‘Our analysis say there is rather a justification for reducing power tariff,’ he said.
The association’s argument, presented by its energy adviser Shamsul Alam, said that flawed government policies, corruption, mismanagement, and inefficiency illogically increased power sector’s annual expenditures by Tk 10,549 crore.
The amount is more than enough to cover Power Development Board’s estimated yearly deficit of Tk 8,786 crore, which the technical evaluation committee of the regulatory commission revised at Tk 7,353 crore.
There has been an unprecedented increase in power production, transmission and distribution costs as the government blindly pushed its policy of rapid electrification of the country even with expensive electricity, said the association.
The government never really cared whether or not the people had the capacity to pay for this expensive power with ceaseless construction of quick rental power plants based on fuel like furnace oil and diesel, it said.
Capacity payment paid to quick rental power plants contributed Tk 2,176 crore to the annual deficit which in no way should be realised from the people, the association said.
The government permitted 28 quick rental power plants to meet the country’s immediate power crisis in 2009 and said that the temporary but pricy power production alternative would be replaced with cheap ones in five years.
Only four quick rental power plans were so far closed down and many of the rest sat idle counting huge capacity payment every year.
The association said that another Tk 4,000 deficit, generated from supplying electrify at low prices to marginalised people and irrigation pumps, was the result of the government policy to help the poor and the people should not pay for it.
Overpricing of transmission charge by the regulatory commission contributes to the deficit of another Tk 110 crore, it said.
The association said that excessive profits by power companies were forcing people to pay Tk 1,088 crore every year.
‘Expenses in power sector kept increasing as the regulatory body lost its control over power companies completely,’ said Shamsul Alam.
He raised questions about possible conflict of interest with power, energy and mineral resources officials also holding important positions at power companies.
‘The companies are always after increasing their value on the share market,’ he said.
‘The end result is the transformation of national resources into individuals’ property,’ he said.
Energy expert and Dhaka University professor Badrul Imam said that skyrocketing power tariff would continue to haunt consumers in the future as the government does not seem to have a plan to generate power from cheap fuel like gas.
‘It is a matter of regret that there has been no progress in exploration of gas in the Bay of Bengal,’ he said.
The association said that bulk power tariff was increased seven times while retail tariff nine times since 2009.
Activist and columnist Syed Abul Maksud said that the government seemed to have been acting just like another company squeezing money out of the people in the name of development.
‘It seems people are rather in electric shock,’ he said.
Architect Mubasshar Hussein asked the regulatory commission to keep in mind that power tariff hike would increase prices of all commodities and services.
Last month, the regulatory commission held public hearings on power price increase proposals placed before it by eight government power producer, transmitter and distributors.
The association also participated in the hearing and placed its arguments.
The regulator has a legal obligation of passing an order on the hearing in three months.
‘We hope the commission order would explain if there is anything wrong with our argument,’ said Ghulam Rahman.
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