Prime minister’s energy advisor Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury on Thursday urged all to take preparations for not using electricity at daylight, if necessary, to protect industry and agriculture.

He said this at a seminar titled ‘Mitigation of the Impact of Energy Crisis on the Industrial Sector’ organised by the Bangladesh Chamber of Industries at The Westin Dhaka hotel in the city.

‘The government principle is supporting industry and agriculture and if necessary we will not use electricity during the day to protect the sector,’ Tawfiq-e-Elahi said.    

In the meeting, business leaders demanded uninterrupted gas and electricity supply to the industry for the sake of economy and employment even at the cost of paying more than the existing rate for the energy.

Business people said that they were ready to pay a little bit higher price for gas but the government would have to ensure interrupted supply of energy through import from spot market, or else, many factories would be closed down leaving thousands jobless.

The energy advisor, however, failed to say of any immediate solution to the existing crisis, rather suggested all to cut electricity use through austerity.

Business leaders requested that the government should import additional 200 million cubic feet of gas from spot market with an additional cost of $200 million to stabilise industrial production that fell by 40 per cent to 60 per cent in the previous three months.

Tawfiq-e-Elahi said that crisis was evolving every day and additional import would not be possible.

‘Russia-Ukraine ware will not stop even in a year. We do not know where the reserve situation will stand. LNG import is a matter of foreign exchange,’ he added.

Moreover, it would be difficult to get LNG from the international market even after paying high prices as the demand for gas remains very high in winter in Europe, according to the advisor.

The demand for gas would decrease after winter and hopefully the price will also be soft, said Tawfiq-e-Elahi. 

‘I think the demand side management is an easy solution. If we can stop use of air conditioner where it is not required much, it will be possible to save 2000 to 3000 megawatt of electricity,’ he pointed out.

‘The era of globalisation is gone. Now save yourself first and then trade.’

The advisor termed the energy crisis geo-strategic and asked all to prepare for a little bit sacrifice for the interest of the country.

He said that the government was working to resolve the crisis through internal arrangement.

Under the government initiative, the industries would get 80MMCF gas from Bhola within 2-3 months and 1000MW of electricity from coal-based power plants that would add power to the system, Tawfiq-e-Elahi said.

He held that the government was also taking a crash programme to produce 1000MW of electricity from solar panel.

Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry president Md Jashim Uddin demanded uninterrupted supply of gas and electricity to industries even if they are required to pay a little bit higher than the existing rate.

He stated that the government should withdraw taxes on the import of energy for ensuring short term benefit to the industries.

The FBCCI head fared that many factories might be shut if the energy crisis was not resolved.

‘We are giving proposal to the government to increase the price of energy but we want uninterrupted gas supply,’ narrated former FBCCI president AK Azad.

He said that production in his textile units had remained shut at night shift for the past one and a half months.

‘I want a solution from the government. What will be the fate of those workers who worked at night shift in my factories?’ Azad posed a question.

He demanded to divert gas supply to industry from domestic use and fertiliser factories. 

Shwapna Bhowmick, vice-president of Foreign Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry and country Manager of Marks & Spencer, said that she visited 27 factories in the past two months and found frightening situation.

Factories have been losing productivity and at the same time sophisticated machineries are getting damaged due to lack of gas and electricity, she observed.

Shwapna maintained that as Marks & Spencer was expanding its sourcing from here, so Bangladesh should not miss this opportunity and suppliers should keep hope.

BCI president Anwar-ul-Alam Chowdhury Parvez said that due to energy crisis export was decreasing and the number of classified accounts had been increasing.

Former professor of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology Ijaz Hossain presented keynote paper at the event and suggested increasing both energy prices and import to resolve the ongoing crisis.

Binayak Sen, director general of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, said that Petrobangla kept the price of gas depressed for long and now time had come to adjust it in line with the international price.

He suggested using different sources of energy and also coal-based power plants to mitigate the ongoing energy crisis.

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