An ongoing electricity crisis, punctuated by frequent power outages amid sweltering heat, is set to intensify after the coal-fired Payra power plant in Patuakhali suspended operations.
Last month, a shortage of coal halted electricity generation at one of two units of the country’s largest plant. On Monday, the second unit of the 1,320 MW plant also shut down production around noon.
As a result, the country’s total power supply decreased by more than 600 MW, adding to the ongoing power cut woes around the country.
“The plant cannot operate until the coal supplies arrive,” said Shahmoni Ziko, the facility’s assistant manager.
The plant, equipped with ultra-supercritical technology, played a key role in keeping the situation under control by supplying more than 1,000 MW of electricity a day during the intense power crisis in the past few months.
It requires 12,000 tonnes of coal daily to generate electricity at full capacity.
The load-shedding issue turned acute on Monday with most areas going through at least three power cuts all day, while areas in South Banasree suffered a woeful four-hour long outage.
According to the Power Grid Company of Bangladesh, load-shedding measured 2,200 MW on Sunday 12pm before declining to 2600 MW on Monday noon.
WHEN WILL OPERATIONS RESUME?
Officials of the thermal power plant gave contrasting information on the resumption of production at the plant.
Operations are unlikely to restart in June, according to Ziko. “It will be possible [to resume operations] when the coal arrives next month.”
However, Shah Abdul Hasib, the plant’s superintending engineer, said a letter of credit has been opened to import coal for the facility. “The first shipment is expected to arrive by the end of June.”
The Bangladesh-China partnership plant in Patuakhali depends on imported coal, but Bangladesh has not been able to pay for the fuel for quite some time due to a dollar crunch amid global economic headwinds.
AM Khurshedul Alam, managing director of Bangladesh-China Power Company, the firm in charge of managing the plant, last week said: “We’re out of coal. We weren’t able to pay up due to the dollar crisis. But we did make some payments and another payment will be made this month. Then we’ll resume the power plant.”
Khurshedul said coal supply had run out a month ago and the plant was running on reserves.
“We’ve been paying the coal supplier $10 million daily since mid-May and have managed to pay off $100 million in dues so far. A new LC has been opened through the Sonali Bank. When coal is supplied in 20-22 days, the power plant will resume operations.”
On Sunday, State Minister for Power Nasrul Hamid said the situation was likely to improve in two weeks.
The Barapukuria Power Station is running at half the capacity, he said, adding that the liquid fuel-based power stations were going through similar issues.
Meanwhile, the Banshkhali Power Station will be operational from Monday, he said.
The power losses threaten Bangladesh’s crucial apparel sector that accounts for more than 80 percent of its exports and supplies retailers such as Walmart, Gap Inc, H&M, VF Corp, Zara and American Eagle Outfitters.
The loss of those exports will exacerbate issues around its dollar reserves, which have plunged by nearly a third in the 12 months to the end of April to a seven-year low, and limited its ability to pay for fuel imports.