Load shedding escalates due to gas and coal shortage

Although demand for electricity has spiked in the wake of high temperature in the country, a section of the power plants is sitting idle resulting in heightened load shedding.

But there is no adequate fuel supply needed for power generation.

Load shedding is usually directed to rural areas more when power shortages increase. However, Dhaka is also witnessing power outage currently.

Residents of different parts of Dhaka said they experienced load shedding several times on Tuesday.

Now the number of power plants in the country is 153. As of last Monday, at least 52 power plants were not in operation on Tuesday. Some power plants were shut due to shortage of coal, gas or fuel oil. Some power plants were closed for several reasons including maintenance. It happens often, said two officials of the Power Development Board (PDB).

They said, the power plants have to pay the capacity charges even if the generation is stopped. According to the PDB data, it had to pay above Tk 200 billion in the fiscal 2021-22 for capacity charge.

Power generation capacity in the country is now 23,370 MW. According to the data of PDB, capacity of 4,295 MW power generations on an average per day could not be used due to shortage of fuel from 24 to 29 May, which is nearly 18 per cent of the total capacity.

Plants of at least 2000 MW have to be shut down for regular maintenance. Of the remaining 17,000 MW capacity, 11,200 MW has been produced on an average during the day while an average of 13,300 MW has been produced at night.

Due to dollar crunch in the country, the government is under pressure to import gas, coal and fuel oil. Because of that, power plants are not getting required fuel supply.

Of the total power generation capacity, 47 per cent is gas based. Maximum gas is being supplied for power generation for several days. The power sector is getting 110 to 120 million cubic feet of gas per day. But there is no adequate gas to run all the gas-operated plants. According to PDB, the production capacity of gas based plants is 11039 MW. Average production has been 6221 MW.

Electricity generation capacity from furnace oil and diesel is more than 7000 megawatts. The average daily production is 3806 MW for the past few days. Power generation capacity from coal is 3440 MW whereas 2226 MW is being produced currently.

Payra, the largest power plant, has not been able to purchase coal for several months due to outstanding bills for dollar crisis. The plant with a capacity of 1,320 MW ran out of coal stock. One unit was closed on 25 May. Production from another unit is decreasing daily. The unit may be completely shut down for at least three weeks from the first week of June.

PDB Member (Production) SM Wazed Ali told Prothom Alo on Tuesday that gas supply has increased more than before. Fuel oil supply is also consistent. Maximum effort is being made to generate power as per demand. There may be some shortage.

Demand increases in summer

Due to low temperature for rains, power demand decreased from 17 May. Consumer demand could be met even with a production of less than 10,000 megawatts per day. So there was not much load shedding. However, as the temperature soared, load shedding has started.

Bangladesh Meteorological Department, in its forecast for the next 24 hours from 6:00 pm Tuesday, said that mild to moderate heat waves are sweeping over the country and may continue for a few days. Because of this, the maximum electricity demand is nearly16,000 MW per day. Following this, 1500 to 2000 MW load shedding is being implemented every day.

The Power Grid Company of Bangladesh (PGCB), the only state organisation that transmits electricity from the power plant to the national grid, said that the maximum load shedding was 1,726 MW last Monday at 12:00 am in the night. The maximum daytime load shedding was 1506 MW at 10:00 am on Tuesday. Electricity demand increases at night. Officials believed that the shortage could increase then.

According to the data of six power distribution companies of the country, which supply electricity at the consumer level, load shedding has exceeded 2000 MW per day.

Country's largest electricity distribution company, Rural Electrification Board (REB) had a load shedding of 866 MW on Monday while load shedding exceeded 1000 MW yesterday (Tuesday). Most of the load shedding has been implemented in rural areas of Khulna, Rajshahi and Mymensingh.

Two distribution companies - Dhaka Electric Supply Company (DESCO) and Dhaka Power Distribution Company (DPDC) have implemented load shedding in Dhaka city for an average of two hours on Tuesday. The demand of the two companies was 2800 MW at 4:00pm yesterday. There was 450 MW of shortage which has been met by load shedding.

Still load shedding

According to power division website, when the Awami League government took over the power in 2009, the power generation capacity was 4942 MW. Now it is more than 23000 MW (excluding captive and renewable energy). The government has managed to reduce the plight of load shedding by increasing power generation capacity. But there are also questions about building more power plants than required, extending the term of rental power plants, paying plant rent and repeatedly raising power prices.

Consumer rights organisation Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) says that prices of electricity have increased 13 times in the past 15 years. Price went up thrice in the first three months of this year, each time by 5 per cent. Still people are suffering due to load shedding while the power plant is receiving rent sitting idle.

CAB senior vice president M Shamsul Alam told Prothom Alo that despite being unable to generate power, the government is increasing the power generation capacity. There is no proper plan. He apprehended that load shedding will increase further in the future.