Is the government at risk of squandering all the goodwill it will have created in the minds of the public with its achievements in the power sector? Power plants aren't really well-suited to photo-ops or big inauguration programs (as say, bridges or other fixed infrastructure may be), but the fact that in the course of the Awami League's three terms since 2009, the country's power generation capacity has increased by over 400% - from about 5 gigawatts in 2009 to around 25.5 gigawatts in 2022, and we know that there have been some new additions since then. The government also claimed in March 2022 that 100 percent of the population had access to electricity.

Thanks to some of the new plants - such as the much-talked about Adani plant from across the border in Godda, a district of India's Jharkhand state - the country's power sector has been setting new records in actual electricity generation over the past week, as the punishing summer heat, more punishing than most people can remember, pushed demand into new territory, and the companies under the Bangladesh Power Development Board pushed themselves to keep up. This turned out to be a mixed bag.

According to data from the National Load Dispatch Centre under the BPDB, the country generated a new record 15,648 MW (15.6 GW)at 9pm on Wednesday, April 19 - surpassing the 15,626 MW generated just the previous day. The tragedy for the BPDB is that the country still had to experience loadshedding to the tune of 428 MW to meet demand that had soared to 16096 MW in the heat. And most power sector insiders believe the country actually experienced much more load shedding than that, given the number of power cuts people experienced.

It was a recurring theme throughout the week. The BPDB would be claiming their record in power generation, some time after 9PM at night, whereas all you had heard all day was of the people suffering in the heat - the mercury too was breaking records pretty frequently, e.g. Dhaka saw its hottest day as the capital of independent Bangladesh. - and things made worse by loadshedding. It was all a bit incongruous.

Not that those two things can't be true at the same time, or that they weren't. This peculiar situation has arisen of course, as a result of too much success in terms of increasing the country's power generation capacity, while not paying enough mind to its supply of fuels - if not to fulfil the capacity, at least to meet daily demand. It all became a bit too much for the residents of Chhagalnaiya, an upazila of Feni (where Gandhi had come and stayed), vandalised the complaint centre of a Palli Bidyut office, over frequent loadshedding amid searing heat. The deputy general manager of the Palli Bidyut Office said as many as 200 people gathered and carried out the attack, after suffering through around 18 hours of loadshedding a day. They vandalised furniture, doors and windows of the office.

The problem this time is very different of course. Whereas back in 2009, our Achilles Heel was generation capacity (and much of our gas reserves still intact), today it is a fuel crisis as the country transitions to importing from the volatile energy markets. The recent news that Exxon Mobil has shown an interest in the country's deep sea blocks must be handled positively by the government, and hope the US giant will find the hydrocarbons we believe must be there. Otherwise they may not get to salvage what were once significant achievements in a vital sector.

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