None of the companies has so far succeeded in their ventures
Two years after the government opened the prepaid gas meter market to the private competition, none has been able to enter the fray due to lack of enough preparation.
The government’s policy, which was announced in 2019, initially got an enthusiastic response.
Many local and foreign companies came forward to enter the lucrative market with import, development, manufacturing, marketing, and supply of smart prepaid gas meters for consumers.
None of these companies has so far succeeded in their ventures.
Officials at the state-owned Petrobangla, responsible for setting the standard and technical specifications for the meters, said they are still hopeful about the arrival of the private sector.
“Already a good number of companies have made demonstrations of their meters and those were enthusiastic. We hope they will be able to meet our standard and technical specifications and finally come to the market”, said Habib Uddin Ahmed, general manager (engineering), and head of the technical committee of Petrobangla.
He, however, said it takes some time to meet our compliances as the things are new and such ventures involve huge investment.
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Many of the companies are studying the market first and then they will either import meters or set up plants to manufacture locally. So they need time for their preparation, he added.
Sources said local Beximco and Bangladesh Smart Electrical Company Ltd., a joint venture of West Zone Power Distribution Company and Chinese firm Hexing Electrical Co. Ltd, are among those showing interest in the business.
They said the Energy and Mineral Resources Division under the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources took up the move for opening the smart prepaid meter market for the private sector in 2019.
After a long discussion with the stakeholders, it published a gazette notification on December 4 in 2019 setting a detailed standard, technical specifications, and compliances for the smart pre-paid meters.
It also invited private companies to come to the market with their own devices by taking approval from Petrobangla.
The Energy and Mineral Resources Division brought some amendments to the previous specifications and published the new gazette “Policy on Purchase and Installation of Prepaid or Smart Gas Meters from the Open Market at Residential Level, 2019 (Amended 2021)” on September 23 this year.
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About the private sector’s involvement in smart pre-paid meters, State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid said the government opened the market for the private sector for pre-paid gas meters following success in prepaid electricity meters.
“Actually if the market is open for all, it will create competition and ultimately the price of the meters will come down automatically”, he said.
He also mentioned that initially Titas Gas’s every prepaid meter costs $80. “Now, we hope, this cost will come down to $30 if fair competition is ensured”, he told UNB.
He said the government wants smart prepaid meters to be developed in a way so that customers can recharge their meters from their mobile phones without going to any vendor.
“The sooner the smart pre-paid gas meters are installed, the sooner the illegal use of gas will come down and the consumers will derive the benefits”, he added.
Petrobangla officials said there is a huge demand for prepaid gas meters for the consumers under its six gas distribution companies.
The demand for these six companies will be nearly 4.2 million while the largest company Titas alone has 2.8 million household customers.
For these customers, so far only 0.35 million have come under metering coverage while the rest need these meters, said a senior official of Petrobangla.
Officials said each of the six companies is also making the move to buy pre-paid meters through a tender process and install those at the customers’ connections.
Of these, Titas Gas is now in negotiations with Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) to get finance for 0.55 million meters and Asian Development Bank for securing a fund for 0.7 million meters.