Public sector generation facilities under-utilised

Manjurul Ahsan

In the outgoing fiscal, privately owned rental and quick rental power plants were allowed to better utilize their generation capacity while the government’s own gas fired plants were under utilized though they could supply electricity at lower prices.
As a result, consumers had to pay more for electricity, said officials.
The favours facilitated the private companies to use 80 per cent capacity of their gas fired rental and quick rental generation plants while the government’s gas fired plants were utilized up to 47 per cent.
Using rental and quick rental plants, private companies supplied electricity to the government in the outgoing fiscal at an average
price of Tk 3.83 per unit or kilowatt-hour, according to the Power Development Board records.
In contrast, five public sector generation utilities supplied electricity at the average price of Tk 2.15 per unit.
As the government opted to buy less of electricity from its own utilities they could hardly use 47 per cent of their generation capacity.
PDB officials said, the public sector generation utilities could supply electricity at cheaper rates only if they were allowed to operate their gas fired facilities at optimum capacity.
In other words, they said, increased generation lowers its cost.
PDB chairman Md Shahinul Islam Khan, however, refuted the claim and said that the power plants of the public utilities received greater priority compared to the private companies in getting supplies of natural gas.
He said that some of the aging and inefficient power plants owned by public sector utilities received lesser priority in getting the gas supplies for the obvious reason of better utilization of gas by private companies.
But show the records that even efficient gas-fired power plants set up by the government four to 17 years ago, did not get the gas supplies they need for better capacity utilization.
Gas fired power plants have economic life of 22 years, said officials.
In Chittagong, a 150-MW plant set up by the government runs at 66 per cent of capacity as it does not get the needed gas supplies.
Two other plants set up by the government, each with 210 MW capacity, to meet the acute power shortage in Chittagong, also ran at 25 to 27 per cent of their capacity as they too did not receive the gas supplies they needed.
Similarly, the 150-MW plant set up by the government at Chandpur ran at 32 per cent capacity for the same reason.
The story was repeated for the 210-MW plant set up by the government at Shiddhirganj that ran at 49 per cent capacity, show the PDB records.
PDB chairman told New Age that some of the government’s power plants received less gas supplies as they were located at terminal points of the supply lines.
According to the PDB records, 11 gas-fired rental power plants of private companies with the installed capacity to generate 451 MW of electricity generated 310 crore units of electricity at a cost of Tk 876 crore.
It also shows that in the outgoing fiscal private companies charged Tk 1,340 crore for supplying 268 crore units of electricity to PDB from their 17 rental and quick rental plants.
It shows that the private suppliers generated the electricity using six quick rental plants with a combined capacity of 378 MW.
The government bought electricity from the quick rental plant owners at the price of Tk five per unit and at the price of Tk 2.82 per unit from the rental plant owners. It made up the average buying price of Tk 3.83 per unit.
The government drew severe criticism for awarding three to five years’ supply contracts to quick rental power plant owners skirting tenders to fill the pockets of favoured individuals.
Towards the end of 2014, the government renewed the contracts for five years.
In the outgoing fiscal, 28 gas-fired power plants of the government with a combined capacity of 4,250 MW generated about 1,737 crore units of electricity at a cost of Tk 3,720 crore.
State run PDB uses 37 per cent capacity of its 18 gas fired plants generating electricity at the cost of Tk 2.23 per unit.
State run Ashuganj Power Station Company Limited uses 60.5 per cent capacity of its five gas fired plants and supplies electricity to PDB at the price of Tk 1.82 per unit.
State run Electricity Generation Company of Bangladesh uses 52 per cent capacity of its three plants and supplies electricity to PDB at the price of Tk 2.28 per unit.
State run Haripur Power Station supplies electricity form its lone gas fired plant to PDB at the price of Tk 3.68 per unit while the North West Power Generation Company supplies electricity to PDB from a single plant at the price of Tk 2.10 per unit.

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