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Bangladesh looks at India to fulfil its ‘power for all’ promise

   July 12, 2018        392        Utpal Bhaskar/ New Delhi

Electricity-starved Bangladesh has hit upon a novel model that involves wheeling power from projects being set up in India across the fuel sources to help meet its energy demands, said a top official in the Sheikh Hasina-led government. This comes in the backdrop of India pushing for cross-border energy trade, with energy diplomacy being a key part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s South Asia-focused neighbourhood-first policy. Also, such a mechanism will help Bangladesh meet its ambitious target of providing ‘electricity to all’ by 2021.

“This is a very new idea which actually has germinated recently because we see that the price in India has gone down whereas in Bangladesh, we have given like many projects so far but none of them have been successful. Even with a very high tariff. So that means that if someone is not developing his projects, there is a problem,” Ahmad Kaikaus, Secretary of power division, in Bangladesh’ Power, Energy and Mineral Resources ministry, told Mint.

This comes in the backdrop of India’s record low solar power tariff of Rs 2.44 per unit registered in May 2017. Also, earlier this month solar tariffs again touched Rs 2.44 per unit in an auction conducted by state-run Solar Corporation of India (SECI). Wind power tariffs on its part plummeted to Rs 2.43 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) at an auction conducted by state-run Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam Ltd in December.

“So, that means in Bangladesh we have constraints… On the other hand if I can do it with India, sharing, then I don’t have much trouble managing the grid. So, this is a concept but this has to be examined,” Kaikaus added.

Mint reported on 16 April about Bangladesh’ plans to buy at least 2,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity from large solar parks being set up in Gujarat and Rajasthan. Also, Adani Power plans to supply electricity to Bangladesh from its proposed coal fuelled project at Godda in Jharkhand.

However, the proposed plan to source solar power is at a preliminary stage.

“No formal proposal has come to us from Bangladesh to procure solar power,” said a senior Indian government official aware of Bangladesh’s interest requesting anonymity.

Kaikaus added that while Bangladesh aims to provide electricity to all its citizens by 2021, his government is confident that it will be able to achieve the target by next year.

As part of India’s strategy of playing a key role in creating a new energy security architecture for its neighbours, 660MW is currently being supplied to Bangladesh. India and Bangladesh last year signed two lines of credit worth $5 billion during Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India. During the visit, Modi highlighted energy security as an important dimension of India-Bangladesh ties and promised to add another 500MW under an existing transmission link.

In response to a query about whether Bangladesh was exploring a similar mechanism for hydropower projects in India’s North East, Kaikaus said, “We are currently working on the projects in Nepal and Bhutan and we are constantly discussing about the hydropower projects in India. If they can develop, you know then we can also get some electricity out of it. Because the North Eastern region has to be connected over Bangladesh. Because if you want to take the other way, it is going to be very costly. So, if I give you the access, I can ask for some sharing, so that will be a win-win situation for everybody.”

Also, India signed an agreement with Bangladesh in April for the construction of 129.5 km-long oil pipeline between Siliguri and Parbatipur for transporting diesel from India to Bangladesh. The proposed pipeline with a capacity of 1 million tonnes per annum will extend from Siliguri Marketing Terminal of the Numaligarah Refinery Ltd in India to the Parbatipur depot of the Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation.

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