Dhaka, Oct. 2 -- thirds of the total power generation capacity will remain idle this coming winter, as more power is added to the national grid from the private sector pushing up the capacity payment obligation of the government.
It comes at a time when already the government's outstanding bills to the private sector power producers has ballooned out to $3.5 billion.
According to the Power Division's official statistics, as of September 13, 2023, the country's power generation capacity was 27,834 MW including off-grid renewable and captive power, while the highest generated in a day was 15,648 MW.
Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) official data shows the country generated 14,021 MW on September 26, while covering the excess demand by resorting to load shedding of 113 MW.
It means half the power generation capacity remains utilised, while load shedding is also unavoidable.
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According to power industry insiders, the surplus power situation will be getting worse in the coming winter with more electricity coming to the national grid from the private sector power plants in the next few months and installed generation capacity may cross 30,000 MW, increasing the surplus electricity to about 70 percent as demand usually dips during the season.
The expected boost to capacity includes 1,224 MW from S Alam Group's power plant in Bashkhali of Chattagram (of which first unit of 620 MW already came to the grid), 718 MW electricity from Reliance Power LNG-based Plant in Meghnaghat, 590 MW from LNG-based GE-Summit Meghnaghat-2 power plant and 584 MW from LNG-based Unique Group's power plant in Meghnaghat.
The sponsors of these plants are working hard to persuade the government to allow them to officially commission their plants as all of them are ready for operation. But due to shortage of gas they are not allowed to start operation.
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In the meantime, more electricity from some of the recently completed power plants already came to the grid, including the second unit of the Adani Group's 1,600 MW coal-fired power plant, and 620 MW from the second unit of Rampal Power Plant.
Last winter, the power generation came down to below 10,000 MW with the decreasing demand.
BPDB record shows the generation was recorded at 9,134 MW on December 31 in 2022. Experts believe the generation will remain below 10,000 MW in the coming winter as demand is not increasing at a faster pace.
Though 70 percent electricity will remain idle, the sponsors will get their payments in the form of capacity charges as per their contract with the government, said the BPDB officials.
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The government is already struggling to keep up with its payments owed to the private power producers.
Officials at the Power Division and BPDB said currently the total owed to the Independent Power Producers (IPPS) is $3.5 billion (equivalent to over Tk 35,000 crore) as of September 2023.
As per contract with the government, the IPPs are facing dual problems with their bills. First, they are not getting bills on time and secondly, they are getting partial bills, but not being able to convert the payment into foreign exchange due to the dollar crisis.
A top BPDB official admitted the problem to UNB, saying that they had reached an understanding with Bangladesh Bank under a mediation of the Finance Ministry that the central bank will provide on average $20 million every day to BPDB to cover its costs.
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"But we're not getting more than $10-15 million a day," a top BPDB official told UNB on condition of anonymity as the issue is very sensitive and he is not allowed to speak on the issue.
Energy experts said the country is heading for problems in the power sector and it would have a big impact on the overall economy pushing up inflation further.
Eminent energy expert and advisor to the Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) Prof M Shamsul Alam said that with the 50 percent surplus power in summer and 70 percent in winter, the country will be heading towards a disastrous situation.
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"There will be a big indiscipline in the power sector as pressure for private sector's capacity payment will continue to go up while import of primary fuel will be increasing. Finally, it will lead to energy insecurity," he told UNB.
In such a situation, he said, the only way-out is that the government has to admit first it has done a mistake by giving permission to the private sector for excessive power generation without consideration of the demand and then change the current policy and strategy.
Otherwise, the situation will be more difficult to manage as pressure from the International Finance Corporation is coming to raise electricity tariff again. If so, it will further push up inflation, he added. Published by HT Digital Content Services with permission from United News of Bangladesh. For any query with respect to this article or any other content requirement, please contact Editor at email@example.com