India helps Bangladesh meet energy needs

Bangladesh is on the road to renewables

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina Wajid inaugurated a 131.5-kilometre-long India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline (IBFPL) from Siliguri in North Bengal to Parbatipur in Banglaesh’s Dinajpur province last week.

The pipeline, built with Rs 3.77 billion drawn from a line of credit offered by India to Bangladesh, will carry one million tonnes of high-speed diesel from Numaligarh refinery in Assam to Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation’s Parbatipur depot.

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The ground-breaking ceremony for the pipeline, which starts from Numaligarh refinery’s marketing terminal in Siliguri and enters Bangladesh through the Banglabandha border post, was held in September 2018.

The pipeline will go a long way in meeting Bangladesh’s burgeoning energy needs. Apart from meeting Bangladesh’s acute energy needs, India’s help to its eastern neighbour is also aimed at strengthening ties with all neighbours furthermore. it will usher a new era of bilateral energy cooperation. Not only that, through Bangladesh, it can fulfil the untapped potential of its northeastern region. So, both Bangladesh and India came forward to enhance their energy security based on reciprocity and enhancing South Asian regional cooperation.

The pipeline will go a long way in meeting Bangladesh’s burgeoning energy needs. The new pipeline is another milestone in Indo-Bangladesh ties.  Bangladesh’s rapid development is fuelling its hunger for more power. Bangladeshis are happy that India is meeting this demand not only through this pipeline, but also other projects like the Maitree Super Thermal Power Plant and supply of power from the Godda thermal power plant in Jharkhand.

Bangladesh faces a major energy crisis that threatens to hobble its growth. Long power cuts are common even in the capital, Dhaka, and this has stunted production in key export industries, especially the ready-made garments sector that accounts for nearly 85 per cent of the country’s exports.

In early October last year, Bangladesh suffered a grid failure that left nearly 80 percent of the country without power. Due to daily power outages, many industrial units in Bangladesh reported a fall in production by up to 50 percent last year, thus affecting the country’s export earnings.

The energy crisis in Bangladesh, which is an energy-deficit country, was intensified by the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and the consequent exponential increase in oil and gas prices. This compelled Bangladesh to stop purchase of gas and shut down several diesel-run power plants.

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In the near future, Bangladesh needs to transition from conventional energy sources to ensure its energy security and long-term sustainability. Following the Ukraine crisis, energy security has become a major concern for developing and least-developed countries. In this context, cross-border energy cooperation could perhaps help Bangladesh to mitigate its energy crisis. 

India is also playing a key role in helping Bangladesh access clean and cheap energy from Bhutan and Nepal. New Delhi has proposed expansion of power trade within the BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal) framework and multilateral talks facilitated by New Delhi are currently on in this regard.

During Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India in September 2022, Bangladesh requested that it be allowed to import power from Nepal and Bhutan via India. The Nepal Electricity Authority (NEA) sought approval from the Indian authorities to export 40-50 MW of electricity to Bangladesh through India’s existing transmission infrastructure. In August 2022, Bangladesh and Nepal decided to request India to allow the export of 40-50 MW of electricity from Nepal to Bangladesh in the initial phase by utilising the high-voltage Baharampur-Bheramara cross-border power transmission link. As per the understanding reached during the secretary-level Joint Steering Committee (JSC) formed for Nepal-Bangladesh energy cooperation, the NEA and the Bangladesh Power Development Board requested India for a trilateral energy sales and purchase agreement utilising the power line.

Given this scenario, the India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline (IBFP) will mark an important milestone in Bangladesh’s quest to fully meet its energy needs, the country’s energy minister Nasrul Hamid said recently.  He said that the IBFP would have been commissioned earlier had it not been for the pandemic that disrupted construction.

“This pipeline will result in quick transport of diesel into Bangladesh and will do away with our reliance on importing the petroleum product in oil tankers by road and rail from India that take a long time and are subject to procedural delays at times,” said Hamid.

Apart from this project that will go some way in meeting Bangladesh’s energy demand, the first unit of the $2 billion Maitree Super Thermal Power Production at Rampal in Bangladesh’s Khulna province is already supplying 660 MW to the country’s national grid.

The 1320 MW Maitree project is being built under a concessional financing scheme offered by India to Bangladesh. The two countries set up the Bangladesh India Friendship Power Company Limited (BIFPCL), a 50:50 joint venture between India’s National Thermal Power Corporation and Bangladesh Power Development Board.

Once completed, this will be Bangladesh’s largest power plant. Prime Ministers Modi and Sheikh Hasina jointly unveiled the first unit of the plant during the latter’s visit to New Delhi in September last year.

Bangladesh is also awaiting power from the Adani group’s 1600-Megawatt thermal power station at Godda in Jharkhand. Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowhury, the Energy Advisor to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, had said last month that Bangladesh is looking forward to importing at least 600 MW of power from this plant to meet its peak summer demand.

The first unit of this plant has already been synchronised with Bangladesh’s power grid and after completion of some formalities and last-minute negotiations between the two sides, export of power to Bangladesh from the plant is expected to commence within the next few weeks.

Bangladesh power minister Nasrul Hamid said that his country wants to import more energy from India. “We are holding talks with India on this. We’re exploring all possibilities. The Maitree power plant is just the beginning, and we can have more such projects. India is already playing a large role in helping us meet our growing energy needs and we expect this role to grow exponentially in the coming months and years,” he said.

India’s help to Bangladesh in meeting its energy needs is also aimed at offsetting that country’s dependence on China, whose investments in Bangladesh’s energy sector stand at $ 8.31 billion.

Beijing has offered to help Bangladesh’s transition to renewable sources of energy. This time, New Delhi has also nudged the USA to step up its energy cooperation with Bangladesh, especially in the field of renewables. US Presidential envoy on climate, John Kerry, offered to help Bangladesh in strengthening its power grid and transition to clean energy.

India is also playing a key role in helping Bangladesh access clean and cheap energy from Bhutan and Nepal. New Delhi has proposed expansion of power trade within the BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal) framework and multilateral talks facilitated by New Delhi are currently on in this regard.

India has also promised to export power generated from its upcoming hydro-power projects in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh once these are commissioned. “We are keen on importing power generated from hydel plants in India as well as Nepal and Bhutan in order to transition to clean energy. India’s help in this transition is critical,” said the Bangladesh power minister.

The India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline is, thus, a major milestone in India’s efforts to help Bangladesh tide over its energy crisis. It is also part of New Delhi’s efforts to strengthen ties in the neighbourhood.

Sufian Siddique
Sufian Siddique
The writer is a freelance columnist


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