A government move to tide over the current power crisis whipped up a debate Saturday when the state minister and the secretary of the Power Division expressed opposing views on the installation of rental power plants.
The project of setting up such power plants is not viable in view of the conditions set by bidding companies, State Minister of the Power Division Anwarul Kabir Talukder told a roundtable discussion.
Secretary of the Power Division, ANH Akhter Hossain, who attended the same programme, defended the plan saying the government's move has been made as a strategy of poverty reduction as well as solve the acute power shortage.
The Bangladesh Water and Power Engineers Association organised the discussion "Power Sector Reforms: Holding Company Concept and Related Issues" at IEB conference room in Dhaka, with its President Khan Manjur Morshed in the chair.
Anwarul Kabir Talukdar said he is not in favour of such plants as every year the government will suffer huge losses for purchasing power at higher price and selling at a discount rate to the consumers.
Besides, other terms and conditions are not so favourable for the country, he said adding he will oppose installation of any further power plants on a rental-basis.
In the wake of a severe power supply shortfall late last year, the government decided to install eight barge/skid/tailor-mounted power plants with 360MW generation capacity on rental-basis for 15 years.
The government has already approved four of them and the remaining plants were not approved for alleged irregularities in tender process.
There were allegations of irregularities against the Steering Committee on Power Sector Reforms, headed by the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister Dr Kamal Uddin Siddique, about the rental power plant project issue.
Referring to the allegations, Akhter Hossain said the committee has decided to install the power plants as part of an immediate solution to the problems relating to power shortage and poverty reduction.
Defending the steering committee chief, he said the committee is working in line with the power sector reform policy, taken up by the successive governments.
Highlighting the government's capability to set up power plants with 300-megawatt (MW) to 400mw every year, Anwarul Kabir said if the Power Division could be provided with one-third of Tk 34.05 billion fund allocated for power sector under the Annual Development Programme (ADP) of the current fiscal the government could build the power plants and make up the losses on account of buying power from rental plants.
About the reform of different entities in the power sector, the state minister said: "The reform will be done when it will be needed on the basis of the socio-economic condition of the country. Local experts will make the reform plans instead of taking advice of the donor agencies to this effect," he said.
About the privatisation or corporatisation of the power sector, Anwarul Kabir felt that this sector should remain under the government until and unless Bangladesh's economy reaches the level of economies of developed countries like Japan and the UK.
Director of the Power Cell, BD Rahmatullah, moderated the discussion and experts from government and non-government sectors including PDB, DESA, REB, DESCO, Power Cell and PGCB spoke on the occasion.