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Quick power supply act gets five-year extension

JS passes bill amid protests, experts decry move

FE REPORT | September 17, 2021 00:00:00

The Jatiya Sangsad (JS) on Thursday extended the tenure of the Quick Enhancement of Electricity and Energy Supply (Special Provision) (Amendment) Act, 2010 by five more years until October 2026 amid strong opposition from parliamentarians, experts and rights groups.

Nasrul Hamid, state minister for the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources, moved the Bill, and it was passed by voice vote.

The law allows a sweeping authority to bypass existing legislation for quick implementation of projects in the energy and power sectors.

All types of power and energy projects, including the import of natural gas, coal, LNG (liquefied natural gas) and petroleum products, as well as the extraction of mineral resources would be eligible for implementation without the usual tendering process - at least for the next five years under the purview of the law.

Electricity generation, transmission and distribution projects would also be covered under the Act.

The legislation states that any activity, which comes under its purview, or any official or employee implementing such activities cannot be subject to any legal challenge.

The law also allows parties interested in power and energy projects to enter into contracts through negotiations with a special committee. The committee comprises top officials of the energy ministry and the state-owned power end energy entities.

Under the special law, the government has already approved and implemented a number of power and energy projects, including dozens of furnace oil, diesel, coal and gas-fired power plants, FSRUs (floating, storage and re-gasification unit), drilling of over a dozen of onshore gas-wells by local and international oil companies, and installation of oil-carrying pipelines, etc.

The law was required to be extended to ensure supply of reliable, affordable and uninterrupted power and energy to end-users, said Mr Hamid.

The countrymen are already having the benefits of the law, which was enacted over a decade ago in 2010, he noted.

The country's overall electricity generation was around 3,000 megawatts (MW) in 2009, which soared to around 25,000 MW with the help of the Act.

The selection process of project awardees under the special law was transparent, and no question could yet be raised of such projects - numbering around 65, he added.

However, energy expert Professor M Tamim said, "I don't see any logic for further extension of the special law."

Emergency law is required to handle emergency situation, he said, adding that the current situation is not an emergency one.

He opined that the law, which was enacted over a decade ago, was necessary to improve the country's the then nagging energy crisis urgently. "I personally supported enactment of the law then."

The law lacks mechanism to ensure transparency, he alleged.

"Although a committee is assigned to select projects under the law, offers of the parties - contending for projects - are not make public," Mr Tamim justified.

If continuation of the special law is required, what the necessity is to keep the Public Procurement Rules effective, he questioned.

"I am astonished with further extension of the special law," said Ijaz Hossain, an energy expert and Professor of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET).

Further extension of the special law reflects 'failure' of the government to make the countrymen satisfied in providing power and energy.

How Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was convinced to give her consent for extending the special law further by five years, he questioned.

M Shamsul Alam, energy adviser of the Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), said the extension would continue encouraging corruption and non-transparency in the energy and power sectors.

The law was first enacted in October 2010. It was extended for the first time by two years until October 11, 2014.

The special law was further extended by four years until October 11, 2018. It later got a three-year extension until October 2021.

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