Load shedding increases outside Dhaka as sweltering heat spikes

Payra power plant at Kalapara, PatuakhaliCollected

There had been record electricity generation during the Boro irrigation season and the holy month of Ramadan. Yet people in different areas outside Dhaka experienced sporadic load shedding at the time. Eid holiday brought relief to them. As the holiday ended, the mercury has been rising again for the past couple of days. Amid this boiling heat, load shedding has started to increase outside Dhaka.

Officials of the country's six power distribution companies said that they are forced to carry out load shedding due to supply being lower than demand. They said, factories and all public and private companies began running at the same time after the vacation. Heat has also increased. But power generation did not increase as per the demand. There has been a shortage of supply of more than 1000 megawatts in two days. Production is disrupted mainly due to lack of fuel.

The Power Development Board (PDB) said, maximum power was generated before Eid. Now it is trying to increase generation again. Rampal power plant in Bagerhat has been shut down for two weeks. Petrobangla has been requested to further increase gas supply.

The power division had set a target of generating 16,000 megawatts of electricity for the peak demand in May. The production was less than 15,000 MW till Monday. The last maximum power generation was on 19 April at 9:00 pm, 15,648 MW. However, the situation is better than in July last year. The government imposed planned load shedding to save energy due to dollar crisis.

According to PDB, currently the power generation capacity is 22,566 MW. Of it, 2000 MW cannot be produced due to lack of fuel (gas, oil, coal, water) while 2700 MW cannot be produced due to technical faults and maintenance.

However, PDB member (Production) SM Wazed Ali Sardar told Prothom Alo yesterday that they managed to deal with the season of irrigation and holy Ramadan successfully. Demand is increasing again after the holidays. Production in full capacity can be started within a few days. Rampal power plant will also come into production. It will ease the supply.

Rampal shut down, Payra on the verge

Two large coal-fired plants have been facing problems again due to prevailing dollar crunch. Coal imports are being disrupted due to shortage of dollars. The production of Rampal power plant has been stopped for two weeks due to lack of coal. If the dollar crisis persists, the production of the country's largest power plant, Payra, may stop which will lead to further load shedding. These two power plants supply 1850 MW electricity.

After coming into production last December, India-Bangladesh joint venture Rampal thermal power plant has been shut down several times. The power plant was shut down due to mechanical failure on 15 April. It resumed production after four days. It was closed again from 24 April due to shortage of coal. The ship containing coal is scheduled to reach Chittagong on Tuesday.

Managing Director of Bangladesh-India Partnership Power Company Limited, Sayeed Ekram Ullah told Prothom Alo that there was a problem with the import of coal due to the dollar crisis. The vessel will arrive on Tuesday (today). After that, production will start at Rampal in two days.

The coal-based Payra thermal power plant in Patuakhali, built by Bangladesh-China Power Company Limited (BCPC), has faced the same problem with importing coal. They have been running the power plant for a long time with dues for coal payment. The central bank arranged some dollars in February. The plant continued the production with it. Now the plant is under the pressure of new outstanding bills.

Shah Abdul Moula, plant manager of Payra power plant, said such situation never arose in the past three years. He told Prothom Alo, arrangements have been made to pay the outstanding bills of coal due to the shortage of dollars after six months. Still the bill cannot be paid. The plant may run with the coal in stock this month. Power production will stop if the dollar is not received.

Suffering from reduced supply

DPDC and DESCO supply electricity in Dhaka. According to the data of these two companies, the demand in the supply area fell below 1000 MW during the holidays. Yesterday the maximum demand of DESCO was 1234 MW and the demand of DPDC rose to 1741 MW. But there is no shortage of supply.

People are suffering because of load shedding in different districts outside Dhaka. Mymensingh district has been witnessing load shedding since the onset of summer. Load shedding occurs everywhere in Mymensingh from remote villages to city. Although load shedding reduced during the holidays, people again are suffering immensely due to this.

Some residents of Chhayabeethi area of Savar municipality of Dhaka said that they experienced power outage from 2:26 am to 3:00 am on Sunday. Load shedding occurred three times until yesterday afternoon. There has been load shedding in Kathgara area thrice yesterday from morning to three in the afternoon. There was no electricity in Palashbari area from 12:45am to 2:30am.

Saikat Barua, assistant general manager of Bangladesh Dhaka Palli Biddut Samity-1, said that the demand was for 415 MW while 285 MW has been supplied.

The demand of PDB consumers in Sylhet division was 230 MW while the supply was 132.3 MW. PDB Sylhet Sales and Distribution Division-2 Executive Engineer Shams-e-Arefin said that load shedding is imposed the supply is less than the demand.

PDB announced for load shedding three times yesterday in Chittagong. But it occurred five times till 2.30 pm. Chief engineer of PDB Rezaul Karim said, they are receiving less supply of 200 to 300 MW per day. That is why they are failing to carry out load shedding as per the schedule.

REB supplies electricity to the rural areas of the country. Around 55 per cent of power consumers are under it. REB's demand exceeded 9,500 MW before Eid. Last Sunday their maximum demand was 8,565 MW. Because of this, they have to carry out 702 MW load shedding. Maximum load shedding has been carried out in Mymensingh and Cumilla regions followed by Rangpur, Khulna, Rajshahi, Dhaka and Sylhet regions. And no load shedding has been implemented in Barisal region. REB carried out 114 MW load shedding last Saturday.

Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) says that electricity prices have been increased three times from January to March. Power prices have been increased 11 times at the bulk level and 13 times at the consumer level in the last 14 years. However, people have been suffering unspeakably in sweltering heat due to power outage.

CAB's senior vice president M Shamsul Alam told Prothom Alo that the supply of dollars to buy fuel is low even though the price has fallen in the world market. Therefore, due to lack of fuel, the power generation capacity is not fully utilised. In case of supply shortage, load shedding can be implemented equally in all areas. It would reduce suffering.

(Correspondents of Sylhet, Mymensingh, Chattogram and Savar helped in filing this report)