Earlier, a meeting on the state of power and gas in the country was held at the prime minister’s office on 7 July. Prime minister's power, energy and mineral resources affairs adviser Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury, after the meeting, told the reporters load shedding may continue until September.

“In the meantime, some 1,200 megawatts of electricity will come from Adani’s coal-powered plant, 1,320 megawatts from Rampal plant and 700 megawatts from Payra coal-fired power plant, thus, reducing load shedding,” he said.

Though adviser Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury mentioned a deadline to the solution of power crisis, state minister for power, energy and mineral resources on 22 July in his verified Facebook page said, “4,000 megawatts of electricity will be added to national grid once Payra coal-fired power unit-2 and Rampal power plant go into operation and import of 1,600 megawatts of electricity starts from India’s Adani power plant in next couple of months.”

Two units of Payra plant in operation

The Payra power plant in Patuakhali is the largest power plant among all coal-fired power plants currently operating in the country, but the 1,320 megawatts plant has been plunged into transmission problems since the beginning. The plant’s first unit with a capacity of 660 megawatts goes into operation on 13 January 2020 and the second unit on 26 August of that year but the second one stopped operation for long since no power transmission line with Dhaka was built. The BPDB had paid fines for one and a half year since it did not take electricity as per the agreement. Last March the Payra plant authorities, however, began operation of the two units of the plant in alternative ways.

Sources at Bangladesh China Power Company (BCPC), which owns Payra power plant, said 90 megawatts of electricity is being supplied across Patiakhali district by installing a substation financed by the Payra power plant. Besides, 900 to 1,000 megawatts of electricity is being supplied to Khulna and Jashore areas through alternative transmission since March.

Delay in operation of Rampal plant likely again

The operation of the 1,320-megawatt power plant in Rampal of Bagerhat is in the offing. Bangladesh India Friendship Power Company built the plant. The BPDB in July 2016 signed a deal with this power plant, which has two units with a capacity of 660 megawatts each. The plant’s operation deadline has been delayed repeatedly, with the first and the second units are set to go on commercial operation on 31 December this year and 28 February 2023 respectively.

According to the plant project sources, this time too, there is little possibility to meet the deadline, with efforts underway to start the operation of the first unit in November this year and the plant authorities opening talks with BPDB to delay deadline for the second unit.

No power from Adani before December

Adani Power has built a coal-fired power plant with a capacity of 1,600 megawatts in Godda district in the Indian state of Jharkhand. The BPDB will purchase 1,496 megawatts of electricity from the Adani plant in next 25 years. According the latest progress report of BPDB released in June, the agency is likely to receive 748 megawatts of electricity by December this year and another 748 megawatts in next year.

The Adani, according to sources concerned, has not conducted the initial test run on the plant as yet and for this, they will take some electricity from Bangladesh soon, thus, it will take several more months to start the first unit of the Adani plant. Besides, transmission line will not be ready before December to bring electricity from this plant.

No transmission line

Sources at the country’s lone power transmission company (PCGB), power transmission line is yet to be built to bring electricity to Dhaka from Rampal and Payra power plants. The Aminbazar-Mawa-Mongla 400-kv transmission line project was undertaken in 2016. Length of this line is 164.6 kilometres with 9.4 kilometres falling in the Padma parts. Besides, work on setting up a 400-kv power substation is on in Aminbazar and the project deadline was December 2020 but that was extended several times to June 2023.

PCGB is trying its best to complete the work by December this year. The office of project director said work on transmission line stretching from Mongla to Gopalganj has been completed already and work from Mawa to Amin Bazar. The most important portion of the transmission connecting Dhaka is on the Padma river. Work on five towers is completed on Padma.

A responsible official said each tower requires 250 tonnes of iron; it is very difficult to work in Padma river during rainy season and it takes at least 60 days to install a tower.

Besides, work on a transmission line stretching from Rohonpur border of Dinajpur to Bogura is underway to bring electricity from Adani power plant in India. Work on cable instalment ended three months ago but substation is yet to be built at both ends.

Shanghai Electric Company is the contractor firm of this project but they arrived late in Bangladesh because of Covid-19 restrictions in China. Now work is expected to end in December.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, PGCB managing director Md Golam Kibria maximum effort is on to open the transmission line to bring electricity to Dhaka from Payra and Rampal power plants. Another transmission line is also likely to be ready to supply electricity to northern region from the Adani plant, he added.

Dependency on rain and wait for winter

Nationwide load shedding begins on 4 July because of fall in gas supply. A four-day holiday, however, brought little relief during Eid. Power deficit decreased after demand dropped. As demand of electricity increased, the Power Division began an hour area-specific load shedding on 19 July, but it was not maintained, with many areas seeing load shedding for six to eight hours in a day.

People involved in power sector said all diesel-operated power plants have been kept shut to decrease use of fuel to save foreign currency; import of liquefied natural gas (LNG) has also been reduced; price of coal is also on the rise in global markets and apparently, there is no alternative to load shedding. Planned load shedding may increase from an hour to two hours and rainfall may decrease power demand. On top of that, fall in temperature will start from October during ahead of winter, bringing a little relief.

Senior vice president of Consumers Association of Bangladesh M Shamsul Alam told Prothom Alo there is no possibility to rise in power supply from coal-fired power plants by October. Demand of electricity may decrease after temperature falls and that can free people from load shedding, that is why the government is awaiting winter, he added.

This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna