The government is counting a monthly loss of Tk 1.3 billion (130 crore) due to delay in laying a high-priority transmission line that would take electricity from the Payra power plant to Dhaka across the River Padma.
According to official sources, the amount is being paid as “capacity payment” to 1320 MW Payra power plant, a Bangladesh-China joint venture project, which is now ready to supply electricity to the national grid for distribution in Dhaka adjoining areas.
In this case the capacity payment means the government’s commitment to purchase power generated at the plant at an agreed-upon rate. The government still has to pay the plant for its generation (capacity) even if it is unable to buy the electricity from it.
The government is not ready to purchase electricity from the plant as it has failed to complete work on the 164.6 km 400 kV double-circuit transmission line that would supply power from Mongla to Dhaka’s Aminbazar via Maowa connected by the national grid.
The project has hit some hurdles in crossing the mighty river, where a multipurpose bridge is being built to connect Dhaka with the country’s south-western region.
The official document of Power Grid Company of Bangladesh (PGCB), the implementing agency, shows the project was scheduled to be implemented by December 2020. After repeated extensions, the schedule has now been set for December 2021.
Officials, however, apprehend the project might not be completed even by the latest deadline due to a major constraint in the work on crossing Padma river.
Nasrul Hamid, state minister for power, energy and mineral resources, acknowledged the loss government is incurring and the hurdles the project is facing.
“We are trying to resolve the issue,” he told UNB adding “We have nothing else to do but to wait.”
Power Division officials blamed the excessive delay on Padma bridge construction authority which was tasked to lay foundations for the construction of towers within the river area.
The government took up the Tk 25.05 billion (2505.37 crore) Aminbazar-Maowa-Mongla project in 2016 targeting power evacuation from two large power plant projects —1320 MW Rampal and 1320 MW Payra coal fired power plants—for Dhaka and adjoining areas.
As per the design, the 164.6 km transmission line will directly bring electricity from Rampal plant, while power from Payra plant will come to Dhaka through this line using facilities in Gopalganj power transmission hub.
To make this happen, officials said, a separate transmission line between Payra and Gopalganj has already been built and it is now in operation.
“But the Mongla-Maowa- Aminbazar project remained stuck up at the 9.4 km Padma River crossing portion”, said the PGCB official adding that a total of 11 towers will be built in this portion of the line of which 7 towers will be installed within the river area.
“The responsibility of towers’ foundation work in the deep of the river was given to the Padma Bridge Authority”, said PGCB managing director Golam Kibria adding that they have been trying to do the job.
He said the Padma Bridge Authority has recently informed that they will now complete the foundation work of the first tower in August this year. Work on remaining foundations will be done by April next year before handing the sites over to the PGCB.
He noted that PGCB plans to start the tower installation and other works as soon as it receives the sites from Padma Bridge Authority.
“The tower installation and other works may take up to December next year”, he said adding, the PGCB will try its best to do the job as early as possible.
Official sources said the government has to continue the capacity payment of Tk 1.3 billion (130 crore) per month until start of full swing evacuation of power from Payra plant as an obligation of the power purchase agreement (PPA).
Half the output from the plant -- 660 MW -- is being supplied to the national grid’s South and Eastern region for the non-completion of the Aminbazar-Maowa-Mongla transmission project.
“So, the delay in transmission project’s execution means the cost escalation in the guise of capacity payment”, said a PGCB official.
They said the capacity payment would be even double if the first unit of Rampal power plant comes into commercial operation as scheduled in December this year.
Officials said the Rampal power plant is being constructed in joint venture with India while the Payra power plant was built under a joint venture with China.
Both the plants started construction works in December 2017. But Payra successfully completed construction of its two units as per schedule, but Rampal failed to install the first unit as yet, they noted.
Payra plant’s officials said they have been operating the two units in alternative months to keep the plant’s equipment operational.