Some voice reservations over govt's move to amend BERC Law
The government has initiated a move to amend the existing Bangladesh Energy Commission (BERC) Act 2003, creating the scope for it to arbitrarily fix the prices of power and energy bypassing the regulatory body. According to official sources, the Energy and Mineral Resources Division recently moved a proposal titled: “BERC Act (Amendment) -2022” to the Cabinet Division to bring this amendment to the existing law. Against that background, the Cabinet today (Monday) approved an amendment to Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC) Ordinance 2022 to empower the government to set fuel tariff on its own under special circumstances without waiting for the commission’s public hearing and decision. It received the nod from the Prime Minister as she is in-charge of the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources, said the sources. Before the approval was announced, an official of the Energy and Mineral Resources Division told UNB: “If the Cabinet approves the amendment proposal, then it will be placed as an amendment bill in the parliament.” Read more: Cabinet approves amendment to let govt decide energy price without BERC If and when the bill is passed by the parliament, it will turn into law with the president's signature. As per the existing BERC Act, if the government wants to adjust the power tariff or price of natural gas, the relevant state-owned body has to place a proposal to the regulator and then the BERC holds a public hearing to listen to the opinions of the stakeholders on the issue. After a public hearing, the BERC announces its decision within 90 days on the price adjustment proposal. But if the proposed amendment is passed by the parliament, the government can at any time fix the tariff of electricity and other energy prices like gas or petroleum products, said the official requesting anonymity as the issue is sensitive. He said that under the current law, it takes at least 90 days to bring any change in power tariff or gas prices for which the government takes the new move to reset the price anytime it is required. “Side by side, the current procedure of BERC will remain in place”, he said. Officials said the current nagging crisis in the energy and power sector has prompted the government to initiate such a move from time to time to adjust the energy and power tariff according to its needs. Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) vice chairman Prof ASM Shamsul Alam termed the government’s move as “destructive to the existing semi-judicial process of the BERC in fixing power and energy prices.“ Read more: BERC to announce decision on review appeal on bulk power tariff Monday He said the BERC was established with a good intention to bring accountability and ensure transparency in the corporate sector in the energy sector as certain procedures have to be followed in any decision making process while fixing the prices. “But now, the proposed amendment will be detrimental for the energy sector in this regard,” he added.