Friday, April 3, 2009

PM for decision on coal policy on priority basis

NewAge, April 3, 2009

The Awami League-led alliance government has decided to hold an open discussion on the draft coal policy with different stakeholders for finalising the policy on a priority basis.

‘The prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, has directed us to finalise the coal policy as we need alternative energy sources to produce electricity. We will soon hold an open discussion with different stakeholders to finalise it on an urgent basis,’ the prime minister’s adviser Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury told reporters after Hasina held a meeting with power and energy officials on Thursday.

The previous BNP-led government that first prepared a draft of the coal policy and then the interim government held half a dozen open meetings with stakeholders but could not finalise the draft because of controversy surrounding the mining method and fixation of royalty.

When asked why another meeting was needed with stakeholders when controversy was raging over the coal policy for the last three years, Tawfiq said, ‘Every government has its own policy and philosophy. Of course, we will consider the investment issues, local people’s concern and electricity generation while finalising the coal policy.’

Hasina, who is also in charge of the power and energy ministry, held her second meeting, which lasted three hours and a half, at the ministry to discuss about the current power situation and what steps could be taken to improve it.

The prime minister stressed the need for increasing gas and coal production for overcoming the power crisis.

Sources present at the meeting said that Hasina had asked power officials why there were power outages 10-12 times a day. Power officials said that power outages more frequent in some areas because of technical faults.

She dismissed power officials’ claims that there was only 15 per cent system loss in the power sector.

Power officials said that the electricity supply situation in the capital would worsen after May because of rise in the demand and sought the prime minister’s directive in shutting down steel and re-rolling mills which consumed huge amount of electricity during evening peak hours.

Hasina asked the authorities to go ahead with the plan. She also asked them to launch a campaign for reducing use of air-coolers during peak hours.

She asked officials to take steps so that the power projects that were in the pipeline – under construction, under tender process or planning – could be implemented as soon as possible.

Tawfiq said that the capacity of the power plants in the pipeline would be around 3,000MW. ‘The prime minister has directed the authorities to go for dual-fuel option in installing the new power plants like the 450MW Sirajganj independent power plant,’ he said.

Hasina also asked the authorities to start negotiations with the countries that had installed power plants like Ghorashal, Ashuganj and Khulna, to replace these old and inefficient plants with new plants.

She asked the power officials to explore whether smaller hydropower plants could be installed in rivers and haors across the country and in water streams in Sylhet and Chittagong.

The prime minister also directed the authorities to expand solar energy projects in urban areas and to explore whether irrigation pumps could be run by electricity generated from solar panels.

She also directed officials to explore whether electricity could be imported from India, Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar under regional cooperation.

For exploring new gas, Hasina asked the gas authorities to engage a contractor to conduct 2D and 3D survey at the onshore gas fields of Bangladesh Petroleum Exploration and Production Company as Bapex would remain busy in the next three years with gas exploration.

Hasina also directed energy officials to discuss with the attorney general the issue of taking legal steps to have a High Court injunction on signing production sharing contract for onshore gas fields withdrawn.

Tawfiq said that they would take to the cabinet meeting a proposal for introduction of daylight saving system by advancing the clock by one hour to save power and gas during evening hours.