The Bangladesh power sector has shown major growth over the past few years. An early mover in the private power generation sector in the late 1990s, its installed capacity has grown significantly. As of March 2022, the country’s overall generation capacity stood at 25.514 GW, up from just 5.5 GW in 2009. The power sector is set to achieve another milestone of 100 per cent electricity coverage, as compared to just 50 per cent in 2009.
A look at the key trends and developments shaping Bangladesh’s power sector…
As of March 2022, the grid-connected generation capacity of Bangladesh is 22,296 MW, of which the public sector accounts for 9,996 MW (45 per cent), the private sector 9,896 MW (44 per cent), joint ventures (JVs) for 1,244 MW (6 per cent) and imports 1,160 MW (5 per cent).
Bangladesh has vast natural gas reserves. Hence, power plants that utilise gas as fuel account for the largest share of installed generation capacity at 51 per cent. It is followed by heavy fuel oil at 28 per cent, coal at 8 per cent and high speed diesel at 6 per cent. Of the remaining 7 per cent, 5 per cent is imported, while hydro and solar constitute 1 per cent each.
During 2020-21, the maximum peak generation stood at 13,792 MW and the total generation at 80,423 GWh. The net energy generation from the public sector stood at 31,916 GWh, from JVs at 3,812 GWh, and from the private sector at 36,592 GWh. Another 8,103 GWh was imported from India through the interconnection in Bheramara and Tripura. The overall thermal efficiency of public sector-owned power plants rose from 39.7 per cent in 2019-20 to 40.7 per cent in 2020- 21.
Bangladesh is setting up its first nuclear power plant (NPP) at Rooppur. Its construction started in November 2017. The plant is located in Pabna district and consists of two units, each with a capacity of 1,200 MW. Bangladesh imports 1,160 MW of power from the Bangladesh-India regional grid. Of this, about 1,000 MW of power is imported from Bohorampur (India to Bheramara) and 160 MW from Tripura (India to Cumilla).
A key focus area for Bangladesh, going forward, is energy transition, for which it is now looking to increase the contribution of renewable energy to the country’s overall electricity generation to around 40 per cent by 2050 from less than 3 per cent now.
The country currently has a renewable energy base of a little over 700 MW, the majority of which comes from solar. The country’s solar power capacity currently stands at 496.6 MW, wind at 2.9 MW, hydro at 230 MW, biogas to electricity at 0.63 MW and biomass to electricity at 0.4MW.
Under Bangladesh’s solar home system project, which is the biggest in the world, around 6 million solar home systems have been installed covering more than 20 million people from vulnerable communities and off-grid areas. Around 2,000 MW of renewable energy capacity is in the pipeline. A total of nine solar power plants are being constructed with a com- bined capacity of 450 MW, and a wind power project of 60 MW capacity is also being built. Besides, there are deals plan- ned to establish 12 solar plants with a collective generation capacity of 500 MW and a few other wind and biomass plants aggregating 130 MW.
During 2020-21, Bangladesh added a transmission network of over 552 ckt. km. The total transmission line length stood at about 12,836 ckt. km. Of this, 7.4 per cent is at 400 kV, 28.5 per cent at 230 kV and 64.1 per cent at 132 kV. The trans- former capacity is about 51,470 MVA with another 1,000 MW of HVDC. The number of substations stands at 194. During 2020-21, the grid capacity increased by 13 per cent at different voltage levels due to the construction of new substations and augmentation of existing ones.
The country’s transmission network performance has been showing an improving trend. During 2015-21, Bangladesh’s substation and transmission line availability stood at 99.97-99.99 per cent. The transmission loss of the national grid during 2020-21 reached 3.07 per cent, as against 2.93 per cent in the previous year. In 2020-21, the total duration of power interruption in the grid network was 167 hours and four minutes.
In 2020-21, the distribution network of Bangladesh consisted of 35,541 ckt. km of lines, a decrease of 3.25 per cent from 2015-16 levels at 41,920 ckt. km. About 10 per cent of the lines were at the 33 kV level, 33 per cent at the 11 kV level and 57 per cent at the 0.4 kV level. During 2020-21, the Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) installed about 1,595 distribution transformers with 358 MVA of capacity as part of continuous improvement of the system. As of 2020- 21, there are 151 33/11 kV substations and 25,607 distribution transformers with a capacity of 4,857 MVA.
Transmission and distribution (T&D) losses declined from 15.73 per cent in 2009-10 to 11.11 per cent in 2020-21, whereas distribution losses declined from 13.06 per cent to 8.5 per cent in the same period. BPDB has introduced several services to improve consumer satisfaction, such as the computerised billing system, easy bill payment, one- stop service, online application, bill on web, prepaid metering, supervisory control and data acquisition, demand- side management and enterprise resource planning.
The government is promoting renewable energy and waste-based power generation projects. The state cabinet recently approved five clean energy projects with a combined capacity of 223.5 MW. An agreement has been signed between BPDB, the Dhaka North City Corporation and China Machinery Engineering Corporation to develop the country’s first waste-based power plant at Aminbazar in Dhaka at a capacity of 42.5 MW.
There will be two more waste-to-power plants in the near future in the city corporation areas of Narayanganj and Cha- ttogram. The government has also given consent to three solar power projects. the Bangladesh-China Renewable Energy Company will set up a 60 MW solar power plant in Sujanagar, Pabna, and a 68 MW solar power plant in Sirajganj Sadarupazila. Singapore-based Cyclect Energy Private Limited will build a 50 MW solar power plant in Chuadanga’s Jibannagar upazila. Western Renewable Energy Private Limited will set up a 3 MW solar battery, diesel-based hybrid power plant in Monpura upazila of Bhola.
Meanwhile, the World Bank recently approved $500 million for the Electricity Distribution Modernization Program to help Bangladesh expand and modernise its electricity distribution system. The programme aims to upgrade and con- struct more than 31,000 km of distribution lines, 157 distribution substations and related infrastructure, and incorpo- rate measures to increase the climate resilience of network infrastructure in 25 rural electric cooperatives in the Ban- gladesh Rural Electrification Board. The programme will also introduce a modern grid system that can support the two-way flow of electricity and information, thus minimising cyber risks and ensuring quick recovery. It will introduce state-of-the-art technologies such as SCADA and install advanced metering infrastructure.
On the policy front, the extension of the Speedy Supply of Power and Energy (Special Provision) (Amendment) Act, 2010 Bill was placed in Parliament on September 15, 2021, aiming to improve power supply to consumers. Since the tenure of the existing law was going to expire in 2021, the proposed law was introduced to extend it by another five years till 2026.
Meanwhile, the Bangladesh government has cancelled 10 planned coal-based power plants after taking their environmental impact into consideration. However, the MPMER has assured that electricity supply will remain unaffected due to this. Also, the BPDB has lined up a total of 51 power plants, having a total generation capacity of about 3,990 MW, for retirement by 2025 (15 plants from the public sector and 36 from the private sector.)
Challenges and outlook
The power sector in Bangladesh faces some key issues such as shortage of domestic fuel, high power generation costs owing to expensive imported LNG and coal, challenges in grid extension, inadequate thermal efficiency in a large number of ageing power plants, as well as financing challenges associated with low-carbon technologies.
Going forward, the demand for electricity in Bangladesh is projected to reach 50,000 MW by 2041 owing to growing urbanisation and purchasing power. To meet the increasing electricity demand due to economic development and mit- igate the demand-supply gap in electricity, a plan has been prepared by the Government of Bangladesh for the addition of new generation capacity. As part of the plan, 32 power generation projects aggregating 12,967 MW are now under construction. The plan envisages around 19,802 MW of capacity addition by 2025. Another 1,496 MW of power will be imported from Jharkhand, India, by 2022 and 500 MW from Nepal by 2026. Further, the government is encouraging the adoption of rooftop solar home systems and has introduced net metering to encourage it.
To strengthen the transmission system, plans are under way to construct 22,238 ckt. km of transmission lines and 113,162 MVA of grid substations by 2025. To strengthen the distribution system, around 85,000 km of new distribution lines and related distribution substations are planned to be executed by 2025.
With all these efforts and measures to promote renewable energy, Bangladesh’s power sector is clearly moving in the right direction.