THE largest thermal power plant of Bangladesh with a generation capacity of 1,320MW at Payra, taken up under a Bangladesh-China joint venture in March 2016, will be completed in June 2020. The first unit of the plant of 660MW capacity began its test run in January this year and the second unit of the same capacity is scheduled to be completed this March, with its commercial operation set to begin soon after. But the plant, undertaken as part of the government’s efforts to diversify energy amidst depleting gas reserve, is feared to become a burden on the national economy as the Power Grid Company of Bangladesh failed to lay out the transmission line — a double-circuit line to tackle the events of tripping and ensure a reliable supply — between the plant and the Aminbazar point in Dhaka of the national grid. Although the Power Grid Company laid out a double-circuit transmission line from the plant up to Gopalganj, it has failed to make use of one of the lines as the Gopalganj substation cannot yet handle any double-circuit line. The double-circuit transmission line between the plant and Aminbazar could be fully laid out in June 2021.
What remains worrying is that the government will need to pay Tk 1.6 billion a month in capacity charge to Bangladesh-China Power Company, which has implemented the $2.48-billion project, if the transmission line cannot be fully laid out before the commercial operation as a half of the power that the plant could produce would not be generated and used. Such a huge amount of money that might be paid in capacity charge to the company will fall on consumers as a burden in the form of power price increase caused by flawed implementation. The Power Board of Bangladesh and the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission have always talked about declining profits every time power prices are increased. They so did in the latest round of retail power price increase that entered into effect on March 1 and during the public hearing on the price increase held in December 2019. Besides, the first unit went into test run in January, the plant could not run to full capacity in the absence of the transmission line and the plant is reported to have been damaged as the portion of the transmission line already in place tripped at least three times, the latest taking place on February 9.
The Power Grid Company officials involved in the laying out of transmission line seek to say that they have had a start of the first-phase work delayed by 14 months because of fund constraints which also points to flaws in the implementation process. All such obstacles encountered in implementation stages bring to the failures of the government in project planning. This also shows a predilection of the government for an increase in power generation capacity and not for power transmission and distribution, which has left much of the installed generation capacity unused, with the demand having ranged between 8,000MW and 13,000MW against the installed generation capacity of 22,787MW. The government must, therefore, attend to the problem at hand at the earliest and clean up its act to stop the power sector development from being lopsided.
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