Bangladesh has been improving its position in the world energy management index. A report of the Geneva-based World Economic Forum (WEF) has placed it in the 104th among 127 countries - two notches up from 106th from last year and eight notches up from 2015.
Today, 78 per cent of our households enjoy access to electricity which underlines remarkable progress over the years on our way to ensure electricity connections at all households by 2021. A decade ago, less than 50 per cent of our people had electricity in their households.
Initiating a successful programme of private power production in the late 1990s, Bangladesh has made significant strides in energy management and achieved a higher overall score for better energy utilization towards economic growth and development and environmental sustainability.
Rapid industrial and economic growth in last ten years has led to a growing deficit of natural gas. The industrial sector alone consumed about 35 per cent of all natural gas used and reduced availability of gas for power generation led to frequent and prolonged power outages across the country, especially during the summer. This adversely affected productivity in the agriculture sector as well as in small and medium industries that do not have an alternative power source. Consumer sectors have resorted to back-up or captive power generation in the form of gas engines to address the recurring power shortages on the grid, which exacerbated the gas shortage.
The performance of Bangladesh's energy sector augurs well. But amid hopes there are issues of concern as well. Demand is in excess of supply and a per capita consumption of 392 kilowatts per hour is among the lowest in the world.
Secondly, power outages are still common in Bangladesh leading to losses worth about two to three per cent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP).
Thirdly, the WEF evaluation was based on, among other things, environmental protection alongside utilisation of energy. This is an area where Dhaka is lagging behind other cities where air pollution is the highest in the world next only to Delhi and bulk of the pollution is caused by carbon emission from vehicles that use liquefied natural gas (LNG).
Inefficient technology, poor operational practices, and inadequate maintenance are some of the roadblocks that limit the supply of energy, as does a shortage of natural gas, which fuels about 70 per cent of Bangladesh's power.
Due to shortage of natural gas, many energy generators have turned to inefficient, dirty diesel and fuel oil. Liquefied natural gas imports are planned but that will drive the price of gas up domestically.
There is also the problem of illegal power and gas connections in collusion with officials of power and gas authorities.
If the above problems are not addressed properly, increased energy generation will improve the situation but will also entail increased cost accompanied by rising revenue losses due to pilferage. Economising the use of energy is another way of ensuring energy efficiency.