Construction of ongoing coal, LNG-based power plants must be suspended: TIB

Originally posted in The Business Standard on 11 May 2022

Representational image of power plant.

Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has urged the government to immediately suspend the construction works of all ongoing coal and LNG-based power plants.

It said that authorities should move forward only after conducting impartial and globally accepted strategic social, and environmental impact assessments to reduce the climate change impact, mitigate environmental damage and protect natural resources and livelihoods.

The Bangladesh chapter of the Berlin-based Transparency International made the recommendation following the findings of a study titled – Coal and LNG-based Power Projects in Bangladesh: Governance Challenges and Way Out – conducted from February 2021 to April this year.

The main objective of this study was to identify and analyse the governance challenges of the planning, approval, and implementation of laws and policies for coal and LNG-based power projects

TIB has observed that even after scrapping 10 coal-fired power plants in 2021, the government has set a target to generate 10,000-12,000MW of electricity using the fossil fuel technology by 2030 – amounting to one-fourth of overall generation.

The rights organisation said that the decision to transform some of the scrapped coal-based power plants into LNG-based power plants indicates the government’s policy shift toward costly and import-oriented fossil fuel.

Moreover, it said that fossil fuel-based power projects are being implemented with foreign debt risk on one side while the authorities are paying capacity charges for generating excess electricity on the other.

The anti-corruption watchdog said that despite the country’s Perspective Plan (2021-2041) and the 8th Five Year Plan emphasising the generation of renewable energy and acknowledging the deficits in growth in energy generation from renewable sources, implementation of related plans is very much lacking.

Identifying the irregularities and corruption, including their patterns, extents, and causes, in the planning, approval and implementation stages of selected coal and LNG-based power projects TIB made several recommendations for a transition toward sustainable and environmentally friendly energy production.

The recommendations include:

  • The proposed IEPMP should be formulated in an inclusive and participatory manner, excluding those with conflicts of interest in the power sector; and strategically prioritize renewable energy in the proposed IEPMP with a clear roadmap
  • The Quick Enhancement of Electricity and Energy Supply (Special Provisions) Act, 2010 must be abolished. A declaration must be made not to approve and finance any new fossil fuel-based power projects after 2022
  • Transparency, accountability and integrity must be ensured in project approval determining conditions for loan and signing contracts and disclose relevant documents
  • Solar and other renewable energy projects on the excess land acquired for the coal and LNG-based power plants and the government pledge given under the INDC must be implemented
  • Integrity in procurement, land acquisition and providing compensation to affected people must be ensured
  • Strict legal action and punishment against the people involved in corruption at various phases of project implementation, ensuring free, fair, and independent investigation must be ensured