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BD to overcome power shortage next year

As Pakistan continues to struggle with possibly the worst electricity crisis witnessed by any nation on the planet ever, even countries like Bangladesh have chalked out a strategy to bridge the gap between the demand and supply of this basic utility through diversification of energy sources for power generation to ensure the country’s future.

Bangladesh, which also produces electricity through high-cost rental power plants, will have an overall electricity generation of 9,839 megawatts (MW) by 2013 against the demand for 8,340 MW.

Moreover, this country (called East Pakistan till 1971) has set a target to generate around 30,000 MW of electricity by the year 2030.

According to a recent edition of “The Financial Express,” an esteemed Bangladeshi daily newspaper, the country’s Finance Minister AMA Muhith has said that the country would have no electricity crisis after 2013 when the generation would exceed total demand for power.

The government of Bangladesh has set a target to generate around 30,000 MW of electricity by 2030.

“The Financial Express” had quoted Finance Minister Muhith as saying: “The government has taken steps to ease the country’s electricity crisis, which was rampant after 1991. We are implementing projects to change the scenario and are hopeful that it will surpass the demand by next year. Our overall export witnessed a 41 per cent growth in last fiscal year 2010-11, compared to that of the previous year, only due to increase in electricity supply. Bangladesh has now proved its potentials to be a prospective country in the international arena. We, however, need to diversify our energy sources for electricity generation.”

A tentative research conducted by The News International in this context reveals that although rolling blackouts have commonly been seen in many developing countries like Pakistan, India, South Africa, North Korea, Philippines and Tajikistan, even developed nations like the United States, Japan and Ireland have also witnessed temporary electricity crises in not-so-distant past.

In 2000 and 2001, the American state of California had to bear an acute shortage of electricity caused by market manipulations by Messrs Enron and illegal shutdowns of pipelines by some Texas-based energy consortiums.

The California state hence suffered from numerous serious rolling blackouts (load shedding), which were actually triggered by drought, delays in approval of new power plants and market manipulation, eventually leading to an 800 per cent increase in wholesale prices from April 2000 to December 2000.

The intentional stoppage of electricity delivery for non-overlapping periods had resultantly affected many businesses dependent upon a reliable supply of electricity; besides causing massive inconvenience to a large number of Californian retail consumers.

At the time of this crisis, California had an installed generating capacity of 45 Giga Watts (GW) ——-that is equivalent to one billion Watts or 1000 MW—- against the demand of 28 GW. The crisis had cost California between $40 and $45 billion.

Traders were thus able to sell power at premium prices, sometimes up to a factor of 20 times its normal value.

During that time, California issued licenses to 38 new power plants, amounting to the addition of 14,365 megawatts of electricity production when completed. Rolling blackouts were again imposed in late August 2005 in Southern California due to the loss of a key transmission line.

This transmission line had shut itself off because of a faulty sensor.

It is important to note that in April 2006, parts of Texas State had also reportedly experienced blackouts due to excessive air conditioner use in unexpectedly high temperatures.

The longest power outage lasted for a period of five hours, affecting areas in the Middle to the South of Texas.

In February 2011, North and Central Texas had experienced rolling blackouts due to 50 power plants tripping offline.

California had become the first US state in 1996 to deregulate its $23 billion electric utility industry. Until that time, the investor-owned utilities — Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Electric — controlled both power production and supply. But the law promised to deliver cheaper rates to consumers by ending their monopolistic hold over the energy market and increasing competition.

While former Californian Governor Gray Davis’s critics continue to blame him for not responding properly to the crisis, his defenders attribute the crisis to the power trading fraud and corporate accounting scandals.

(References: The San Francisco Chronicle archives, Arianna Huffington’s book “Governor Davis and the failure of power,” Christopher Weare’s book “The California Electricity Crisis: Causes and Policy Options” and the Associated Press reports etc)

In Japan, power outages starting on March 14, 2011 had raised many an eyebrow across the globe. These power shortages, which are still persisting, were caused by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The Tokyo Electric Power Company, which normally provides approximately 40,000 MW of electricity, was left with no other option but to announce that it could only provide about 30,000 MW, a shortfall of 25 per cent.

This was because about 40 percent of the electricity used in the greater Tokyo area was supplied by nuclear power plants, and two of these installations were shut down when the first earthquake occurred and sustained major damage related to the earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

Very recently on May 18, 2012, the Japanese government had asked companies in the Chubu area, where Messrs Toyota Boshoku is based, to cut electricity usage by five per cent compared with 2010 on business days from July 2 to September 28 this year.

(Reference: Bloomberg TV report)

“The Japan Times” (May 15, 2012 edition) writes: “Two weeks after the last working nuclear reactor was shut down as a result of the Fukushima nuclear crisis, the energy-hungry nation is struggling to figure out how to bridge the gap. While the government has not yet issued a target for industrial power cuts, significant reductions appear certain and could reportedly climb as high as 20 percent in the Kansai region, which includes the commercial hubs of Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe.”

The prestigious Japanese daily further maintains: “The world’s worst nuclear accident in a generation, sparked by a devastating quake and tsunami in March 2011, turned public sentiment against nuclear power, which supplied one-third of the import-dependent nation’s electricity. That has stoked a search for expensive alternatives, with utility Kansai Electric last month booking a $3 billion annual loss from reviving its mothballed thermal power plants, which burn fossil fuels.”

On several occasions in the 1970s and 1980s, trade union strikes in Ireland’s power utility, the Electricity Supply Board, had led to rolling blackouts.

However, blackouts have not occurred for this reason since 1991.

According to a BBC report of January 4, 2012, about 35,000 people had suffered power cuts due to storms at the start of this year.

BBC had quoted the Northern Ireland Electricity in its afore-cited report.

In India too, rolling blackouts are common in areas like New Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, West Bengal, Assam, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh, though the states of Punjab, Goa, Gujarat and Kerala are largely free of any load shedding due to surplus power. Karnataka and Orissa still occasionally experience power cuts.

In its May 31, 2012 edition, “The Times of India” writes: “Courtesy, the unscheduled and unannounced cuts in addition to the regular ones, more than 5,000 medium and small scale industries are forced to bear the brunt of production loss, in addition to facing the heat of expenses incurred by them in day-to-day running of their units. So is the case of residents as well as farmers of the three district districts who are sweating it out on account of longer power cuts varying between four to nine hours daily.”

South Africa, North Korea, Philippines and Tajikistan are some of the other countries that have been ‘greeted’ by painful power cuts during the last few years.

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