In the face of looming severe power shortage, the government is all set to hire barge-mounted power plants to help stave off the electricity debacle, at least partially.
"Yes, we've initiated the move. We'll offer bids for the purpose on February 19," a senior official of the Power Division confirmed Sunday.
The idea of purchasing power from the barge-mounted independent power producers (IPPs) reflects the government's recognition to the severe power shortage that has gripped the industrial and commercial units in Dhaka and Chittagong.
The government would purchase electricity from private investors who would run such types of power plants, officials of Power Division said.
Roughly, the Power Development Board (PDB) plans to purchase 300 mega-watts (MW) of electricity from the operators of barge-mounted power plants.
State minister for power Iqbal Hasan Mahmud, while speaking at an FBCCI-sponsored seminar Saturday in the capital, acknowledged that each day, the country is experiencing load shedding ranging from 850 MW to 1050 MW, specially in dry season.
Figures available with PDB say the existing power plants of the country have the capacity to generate power between 2800 MW and 4300 MW, which is far below the demand across Bangladesh. The state minister for power earlier expressed the fear that the power deficit in next summer might reach a record level of 1500 mw.
Power Division sources said: "The idea, albeit new in Bangladesh, has worked well in many countries around the world".
But he admitted that it was an ad-hoc measure and the move was initiated to "meet the emergency needs".
Explaining the procedures of installing these types of power plants, the official said local investors would import those.
However, the local investors could set up power plants with foreign investors as joint-venture projects.
The plan is expected to improve the current electricity situation in the country where load shedding has become a common phenomenon. In many parts of the country, power supply cannot even meet 25 per cent of the demand for the same. The power shortage coupled with fuel oil crisis in the northern districts has hit the Boro cultivation hard.
But many say the initiative is undertaken to placate the voters, as the next general election is just a year away.
Others say it may push up the losses being incurred by the state-run power development agency, rather than addressing the crisis.
The government purchases electricity from the private operators in foreign currency, but sells the same to the consumers in local currency, thus making huge losses on its part.
An independent analyst said buying power from barge-mounted units takes a shorter lead-time but involves higher costs. However, the government needs to increase production of electricity through traditional power plants, he said.