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Consumers set to pay again for flawed energy policy



THE move to once again increase the retail prices of electricity does not augur well for consumers in general and those belonging to the fixed- and low-income groups in particular. As New Age reported on Wednesday, the state minister for power and energy said the hike is going to occur ‘in a month’ following the required formalities by the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission. Among the five state-run utilities, the Power Development Board, the Dhaka Power Distribution Company and the West Zone Power Distribution Company have already submitted their proposals to the commission for increase in retail power prices by 15.5 per cent, 20 per cent and 8.59 per cent respectively, while the Dhaka Electric Supply Company and the Rural Electrification Board are expected to submit their proposals later. It may be worth recalling that the Awami League-led government, in its previous tenure, increased retail power price by around 60 per cent, from Tk 3.76 a kilowatt-hour (unit) to Tk 6 a unit, and bulk power price by over 98 per cent, from Tk 2.37 a unit to Tk 4.70 a unit.
As pointed out in the report, the proposed power price hike is intended to cover the losses incurred by the utilities. However, it is beyond debate that the losses are mostly caused by the staggering rise in the average power generation cost since 2011 when most of the controversial rental and quick rental power plants, which run on expensive diesel and furnace oil, came into operation. Other than paying excessive amount for every unit of power from these plants, the government has to pay in terms of capacity charge to the rental plants predominantly owned by people tied to the ruling party even when they are not in operation either on the former’s instruction or for their rundown machineries. Overall, the move in question is just to punish the consumers for faults they have nothing to do with.
Consumers at large have already been reeling under the rise of overall cost of living for the past few years, thanks to unabated increase in the prices of essential commodities on the one hand and repeated increases in power and energy prices on the other. Meanwhile, their genuine income has hardly seen any rise. The government is expected to give the move a second thought as it will end up just adding to the consumers’ miseries.




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