100% electricity coverage: Bangladesh’s largest power plant officially begins operation

Originally posted in Dhaka Tribune on 20 March 2022

Construction of second powerplant with identical capacity already underway

Aerial view of the coal-fired Payra Thermal Power Plant in Patuakhali, Bangladesh Dhaka Tribune

Bangladesh is set to launch its largest power plant, with a capacity of 1,320 megawatts, beside Patuakhali’s Payra River.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will inaugurate the coal-fired plant in the southern district on Monday by releasing 1,320 pigeons.

The prime minister, who had been conducting office from her official residence for the last two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic, will inaugurate the plant in person.

The premier is expected to announce that the country has achieved 100% electricity coverage during the ceremony. Officials of the energy division said they currently do not have any pending applications for electricity connections, which is why they decided to declare 100% coverage.

Bangladesh-China Power Company Limited (BCPCL) built the power plant on 982.77 acres of land at Dhankhali union Parishad of Kolapara upazila, Patuakhali.

The total cost of the project is estimated at around Tk20,000 crore, or $2.48 billion. The Export-Import Bank of China lent $1.96 billion while the rest was funded by Bangladesh.

Full operation after installation of Padma River transmission line

According to the latest plan, the plant’s 1,320MW total capacity comes from two 660MW units. Another plant with identical capacity is going to be constructed in the area, as well.

The new power plant is already connected to the national grid in Gopalganj and producing 320-640MW of electricity by rotation. The plant will begin full operation after the installation of a transmission line through the Padma River to Dhaka and nearby areas.

Officials said, about 80-85% of the plant’s electricity will be supplied to the southern part of the country, particularly Barisal and Khulna, in order to turn them into industrial hubs. The areas are mostly agricultural and residential at the moment.

When the power plant begins running at full capacity, around 13,000 tons of coal will be needed to power it and it will generate 180 tonnes of fly and bottom ash as byproducts.

Officials said the plant has a 76.30 acre dumping zone where 25 years’ worth of byproducts can be kept.

At the moment, the plant is importing coal from Indonesia. It has its own jetty, the conveyor belts of which can unload 3,200 tonnes of coal every hour from four vessels at the same time.

Bangladesh’s power generation capacity has reached 25,514 MW from just 4,942MW in 2009, according to government data.

The Payra plant’s first unit was connected to the national grid on May 15, 2020, while the second one started production on December 8 last year.

Following a meeting with the premier of Bangladesh, China BCPCL started its journey in 2016 to establish the country’s largest power plant in Payra. Before this, a private plant in Narayanganj generating 450MW of electricity was the largest in the country.

Second phase, new grid line construction ongoing

Work has already started on the second power plant, which is being built in the same compound as the first at a cost of $2.06 billion.

It is expected to be completed by June 2024.

The construction of a 400KV double circuit transmission line from Payra to Aminbazar and Savar through Gopalganj has also begun. The line will allow Dhaka and some neighboring districts to use electricity from the Payra power plants.

Construction completed in timely manner

Addressing journalists at the Payra power plant complex on Sunday afternoon, State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid Bipu said: “Amid lots of challenges, we have completed the first phase of this power plant ahead of time. Due to the Covid-19 situation, the inauguration ceremony is taking place now.”

He added that the prime minister had wanted to inaugurate the project herself, as it is one of the priority projects of the government.

Responding to a question, he said: “There were some criticisms of this project from various corners, now you can watch the way we have implemented it. To protect the environment, this plant is using ultra-supercritical technology and generating power from the environment-friendly clean coal project.”

Power plant turning area into economic hub

While visiting the Payra 1,320 MW thermal power plant on Sunday, this correspondent found officials and workers of the power plant in a festive mood.

According to government officials, thousands of jobs will be created as the physical work of the power plant project progresses. Eventually, the area will turn into an economic hub and raise the country’s GDP by 2%.

While visiting the power plant on Sunday, Amin Ul Ahsan, divisional commissioner of Barisal, said: “Already, foreign and domestic buyers are purchasing land in the surrounding area to build industries. A special economic zone, rail link, and four-lane highway from Payra to Vanga and Faridpur via the Padma Bridge are in the government’s plans.”

Central leaders of the ruling Awami League, including Joint General Secretary AFM Bahauddin Nasim, Organizing Secretary Afjal Hossain, and local lawmakers also visited the plant on Sunday.

“It’s a great achievement for Awami League as we have proved once again Awami League is the only political party of this country which fulfills its electoral pledges properly,” Bahauddin Nasim told reporters.