The country's biggest power plant at Payra is operating at half capacity, as one of its two units has remained idle since its completion in December last year owing to delays in the construction of a transmission line.
Consequently, the Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) has been paying the Payra power company Tk115 crore every month as "capacity payment" – a kind of penalty for keeping a functional plant idle, said a top official of the board.
The first unit of the 1,320MW Payra Thermal Power Plant went into commercial operation on 15 May last year and the second unit on 8 December the same year.
Power generated by this plant was supposed to be transmitted to Dhaka through a new transmission line that was scheduled for completion by December 2020.
The transmission line – being built by the Power Grid Company of Bangladesh (PGCB) – is now half done. The line requires seven towers across the River Padma to connect Dhaka.
The Padma Bridge authorities were tasked with constructing the transmission towers but they have only recently started working on the project, officials have said.
But no one can say when these towers will be completed.
The BPDB is now feeding power from the first unit to an existing transmission line for the country's southwestern region.
With the second unit staying unused, the BPDB is buying costlier power from oil-based power plants to compensate for the shortage of supply, besides spending quite a big sum of money as capacity payments.
BPDB Chairman Engineer Md Belayet Hossain said, "We could have avoided purchasing expensive electricity from oil-fired power plants If we had the full capacity of the Payra power plant."
The cost of oil-based power ranges between Tk16 and Tk22 per unit, whereas Payra's power sells at Tk7.5 per unit.
"We are pushing the agency concerned to complete the transmission line," the chairman added.
No definite timeline to complete the transmission line
The Power Grid Company was tasked by the power ministry with building a 400kV double-circuit transmission line between Payra in Patuakhali and Aminbazar in Dhaka via Gopalganj in 2017.
The company completed the line from Patuakhali to Gopalganj up to the bank of the Padma. Since then, it has been waiting for the Padma Bridge authorities to install the river-crossing towers from Gopalganj to Maowa in Srinagar of Munshiganj district.
The bridge authority was completely focused on building the bridge and had only recently told the Power Grid Company that they would start working on the towers, officials said.
Golam Kibria, managing director of Power Grid Company, told The Business Standard, "Construction work on the towers is in progress. We will take five-six months after the completion of the towers. But we do not know when the construction of the towers will be completed."
The Payra plant was built at a cost of $2.48 billion by the Bangladesh-China Power Company (Pvt) Limited – a joint venture of the North-West Power Generation Company Limited (NWPGCL) and the China National Machinery Import & Export Corporation (CMC).