The Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission is now considering holding a public hearing on its primary decision to provide money from Electricity Maintenance and Development Fund of the Power Development Board to private companies.
Commission chairman Monowar Islam said this at a workshop organised by the commission for finalising a draft amendments to the guideline on the fund.
In February 2011, the commission, through a public hearing, created the fund with 5.17 per cent of bulk power tariff to help increase the power board’s capacity for low-cost power generation and maintenance of its power plants to reduce the overall power supply cost.
In March 2017, the commission, without a public hearing, gave its nod to allocate Tk 1,184 crore to North-West Power Generation Company from the fund.
North-West Power Generation Company, a state-run company that sells electricity to the power board with 16 per cent profit, would pay the money in equity to its 50-50 venture with a Chinese firm.
The joint venture, Bangladesh-China Power Company Limited, was created under a government policy to facilitate private entrepreneurs to sell bulk electricity from its power plants to the power board, said officials.
In the wake of severe criticism for frequent power price hikes, the energy commission created the fund which accumulated Tk 5,600 crore until January 2017, said the officials.
At the workshop, state minister for power, energy and mineral resources Nasrul Hamid, Sustainable Development Goal at Prime Minister’s Office chief coordinator Abul Kalam Azad, power division secretary Ahmad Kaikaus, officials from state-run power generation, transmission and distribution companies, a representative from Consumers Association of Bangladesh and a few journalists were invited to the workshop.
Asked about the legality of amending the guideline at the workshop, Monowar said, ‘It is not the last; we may organise further discussions, invite public opinions and even hold a public hearing before finalising the amendments to the guideline.’
Consumers Association of Bangladesh energy adviser Shamsul Alam, also an electrical engineer, said, ‘It would be a breach of the consumers’ mandate as the consumers had allowed the 5.17 per cent hike in power prices in 2011 on condition that the fund would be used by the power board.’
He said that there was no scope of using the fund in any project of a private company, even if it was a public sector company, as the power board bought electricity from such companies at 18 per cent higher prices than its own power generation cost.
At the workshop, the power board officials requested the commission that it should allocate money from the fund to any other company only after meeting the demand of the power board.