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Dhaka Sunday,  Dec 4, 2022

`Otherwise, Our Suffering Will Continue’: Tawfiq e Elahi

Bangladesh will have to put up with the rolling blackouts at least until supply from the plant in Rampal and another being built in India by a subsidiary of Adani Group begins, Tawfiq-e-Elahi Chowdhury has said.

Speaking to journalists after a programme in Dhaka on Sunday, the prime minister’s adviser for power, energy and mineral resources said the government had earlier said it would overcome the situation by October because it had thought the Russia-Ukraine war would end before winter and fuel prices would ease.

The global energy crisis has, however, continued with no end to the war in sight. It forced Bangladesh to stop buying liquified natural gas or LNG from the spot market with its dollar reserves depleting.

Europe is also desperately trying to replace gas from sources other than Russia, such as Qatar, a supplier of LNG to Bangladesh and many other Asian nations.

The government resorted to recurring outages in July due to the fuel shortage although Bangladesh has achieved the capacity to generate power for all.

Dhaka Power Distribution Company scheduled up to eight hours of outages for some areas on Sunday as the crisis worsened after a power grid failure earlier this month.

Tawfiq called for patience to tackle the situation, describing it as “uncertain” and claiming it takes time to repair the lines after a grid failure.

“If the global crisis lessens and fuel prices fall, everything will be alright. Otherwise, our suffering will continue.”

Asked if the government had a plan B to tackle such a crisis despite its achievements in the power sector, the prime minister’s adviser said: “We’ve built the coal-based power station in Rampal as an alternative despite objections [by environmentalists].”

“But the supply from the plant has been delayed. We expect power from Rampal by December.”

“And once the import of electricity from the station in India’s Jharkhand begins, alongside supply from Rampal, the crisis will end.”

The two projects will add nearly 3,000 MW of electricity to the national grid of Bangladesh.

The government plans to raise Bangladesh’s solar power capacity to 1,000 MW, which will be useful to meet the demand at daytime, according to Tawfiq.

To tackle a possible deterioration of the power and energy crisis due to heightened demand during Ramadan, he said, compressed natural gas from Bhola and coal will be brought to Dhaka. “It’ll ease the pressure a bit.”

The government expects 80 million standard cubic feet of gas per day from Bhola at that time, Tawfiq said.

SUPPLY FROM RAMPAL DELAYED

The 1600 MW Godda Power Project in Jharkhand, being implemented by Adani Power, and the dedicated transmission line to Bangladesh are expected to be commissioned by Bangladesh’s Victory Day on Dec 16, Indian business tycoon Gautam Adani said after meeting Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during her New Delhi visit in September.

Adani Power and Bangladesh Power Development Board signed a memorandum of understanding in 2015. This followed a joint declaration issued during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Dhaka that year. As per the MoU, the entire production from the project will be supplied to Bangladesh.

Bangladesh India Friendship Power Company, a 50:50 joint venture between India’s top power utility NTPC and Bangladesh Power Development Board, is implementing the Maitree Super Thermal Power Project in Bagerhat’s Rampal

The two prime ministers unveiled one of the two units of the plant– each with a capacity of 660 MW – virtually during Hasina’s visit to India last month.

Subhash Chandra Pandey, director of the project, said they are gradually increasing production after starting to generate power experimentally at the unit, which produced 250 MW of electricity during a test on Friday.

The project authorities could not increase production earlier due to a lack of coal and machinery, which have finally arrived, said Subhash.

He hoped it would be possible to start supplying 660 MW of power from the unit to the Khulna region in early November.

The other unit is expected to begin operation by March 2023, said Subhash. He said that it will be possible to supply electricity from Rampal to other parts of Bangladesh once the transmission lines through the Padma Bridge are set up.

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