Rental power critics are stupid or anti-state: TowfiqStaff Correspondent
Prime minister’s energy adviser Towfiq-E-Elahi Chowdhury on Tuesday came down heavily on the critics of expensive short-term rental power plants, saying that they were either stupid or anti-state.
Speaking as the chief guest at a workshop for journalists on Sustainable Energy Development and Smart Grid, organised by fortnightly magazine Energy and Power, the adviser said that the government had no other option but to increase power generation by rental plants powered by furnace oil and diesel.
‘But the critics who question where the electricity generated by the rental plants goes are either ignorant or wilfully evil or anti-government or anti-state,’ he said.
Last year the state minister for environment, Hasan Mahmud, criticised in strong terms economist Anu
Muhammad of the National Committee for Protecting Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports for calling hartal to oppose the production sharing contract the government had signed with ConocoPhillips, a US company.
The minister called the committee ‘foreign agents and spies’ which wanted to gain the limelight by making an issue out of the contract the government had signed with Conoco.
Towfiq said that there were only a few people who speak against the policy in the power sector. ‘They are stupid. In a single word they are stupid’.
They want to ‘switch off the country’ by suggesting that the government go for ‘re-powering’ of the old power plants in the public sector instead of bringing power from rental plants in a short time, he said.
The adviser claimed that the old plants would need to keep shut for 18-24 months to increase electricity generation by ‘re-powering’.
He questioned whether the consumers would like to pass those days without electricity.
Academics, journalists, civil rights activists and the main opposition party in the Parliament have been criticising the ‘quick rental power’ policy, saying that the government itself had created the crisis to legitimate its unsolicited and expensive way to solve the power problem.
They also said that the government had made the move with legal protection to allow a section of businessmen, policymakers and professionals to amass money.
The government’s quick rental power solution policy has been highly criticised by experts and different civil rights activists as the rental power plants have burdened the country’s economy enormously.
On the plea of meeting electricity demand in a short time, the government signed 15 deals to buy electricity from 17 quick rental plants with a combined generation capacity of around 1,400MW, which are powered by imported furnace oil and diesel.
The Power Development Board buys electricity at more than Tk 16 a kilowatt-hour (unit) from the rental plants, which has increased the average power generation cost to around Tk 7.0 a unit from Tk 2.63.
The Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation also provides Tk 3,000 crore a year to supply fuel oils to the rental plants.
The country’s demand for fuel oils has increased by around 2.0 million tonnes a year because of the rental plants, which need a huge amount of subsidy even after increasing the furnace oil’s price by 131 per cent in six phases and of diesel by 38.64 per cent in four phases last year.
Economists and Finance Division officials said that the government faces huge budgetary pressure to pay the ‘cost’ of rental plants. The government has exhausted the reserve of local banks by excess borrowing, leaving nothing for entrepreneurs.
The price of essentials has also shot up with consistently double digit inflation following the record rise of fuel oil prices, and caused tremendous hardship to people of all income groups.
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