Published report suggests that uncertainty looms over the timely implementation of the power transmission lines for electricity evacuation from the upcoming 2,400 MW Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant (RNPP) as the project financing and the contractor engagement are being delayed. The Power transmission infrastructure for RNPP is planned to be implemented by the Power Grid Company of Bangladesh (PGCB) under a government loan support from the Indian Line of Credit (LoC). The government of Bangladesh and India signed a US$ 1.06 billion dollar loan agreement in 2017 for financing the power transmission infrastructures with a target to implement them within 2022. As per the schedule, the first 1,200 MW nuclear power unit at RNPP will be commissioned in 2023. Delivery of electric energy to the national grid from RNPP is linked with the implementation of the 400 kV power transmission lines and associated infrastructures. Unless the power transmission line is made operational, RNPP power generation can not be started even if the country's first (under construction) nuclear power project works are completed.
The Power transmission infrastructure for RNPP is complicated and it has several components. There are 5 power transmission lines including 400kV transmission lines with a length of 464 km along with 13 km long river crossing, the 205 km long 230 kV transmission lines including 7 km long river crossing, the 400 kV 4 Bay Extensions, the 230 kV 5 Bay Extensions. The transmission lines have specific requirements to follow for securing frequency and voltage parameters so that power system stability can be ensured and widespread power system collapse can be avoided. For a relatively small power system in the country, the task is challenging. Therefore, the smooth power transmission from RNPP will require qualitative up-gradation of the country's power transmission system with the aid of frequency control, frequency drop emergency control facilities and management. The published reports based on PGCB information suggest that the Indian authorities involved in the process of clearing the finances under the LoC 'has been taking excessive time to give go ahead' for the bidding process for the construction of the said power transmission infrastructures. The power transmission lines (464 km 400kV lines) have been divided into 4 packages including the 102 km long Rooppur (Ishwardi, Pabna) to Bogra line, 144 km long RNPP to Gopalganj line, 147 km RNPP to Dhaka line and 51 km Aminbazar (Dhaka) to Kaliakaoir line. There are additional 13 km major river crossings for the power transmission lines over the mighty rivers Padma and Jamuna (6 km and 7 km respectively). Also, the 230 kV power transmission lines are divided into 3 packages: 60 km long Rooppur-Baghabari line, 145 km Rooppur-Dhamrai line along with 7 km long river crossing line over the river Jamuna.
A separate report published recently in the media suggests that the construction of the 24 km long Rampal-Khulna 230 kV double circuit power transmission lines with necessary infrastructure for the Rampal 1,320 MW coal fired power plant project has been suffering from delays. As per the signed agreement with the PGCB and the contractors, construction of the power transmission line was initially scheduled to be completed within June 2017. Later, the completion time was extended until December 2018. But the power line construction work remains incomplete and now PGCB expects the work to be completed by February 2021. Implementation of Rampal 1,320 MW coal fired power plant was initially planned to be completed in 2019. Now with the revised schedule, the plant construction is expected to be completed in 2022.
Construction of the (660 x 2) 1,320 MW Payra coal fired power plant at Patuakhali has been completed but due to the absence of adequate power transmission lines connecting the power plant, a significant part of the power generation capacity has been idling there. Again, published reports suggest that the power transmission lines under construction by PGCB have been suffering from delays for various reasons including in the segment of the transmission line over the rive Padma. As planned, PGCB has been carrying out construction of 160 km long 400 kV double circuit power transmission lines from Payra power plant to Gopalganj and 164 km long Aminbazar-Mawa-Gopalganj-Mongla 400 kV double circuit lines with necessary sub-stations and other facilities. The said power line includes a segment of 9.4 km long river crossing line over the river Padma (beside the under construction Padma bridge) for transmission of power from the plant to the load centres. The projects are scheduled to be completed by end 2020 and in June 2021 respectively.
A large number of power plants have been under construction in the country and most of them are located in the coastal areas of Bangladesh. The major reason behind their setting is the relatively convenient import infrastructure for supplying fuel (coal and LNG) for the plants. On the other hand, the load centres (power consumer concentrations) are mainly located in Dhaka and Chattogram and the surrounding areas. Therefore, the costly high voltage power transmission lines need to be built to evacuate power from these power plants (either commissioned or under construction) to the load centres.
The existing power transmission lines and two power transmission interconnectors over the river Jamuna are overloaded. The power needs to be evacuated from West Zone to East Zone of the country and to the major load centres. The task further demands major construction and up-gradation of the country's power transmission systems. The challenges multiply with the mighty river crossing at several points for building the power lines in the country. There is no other option at this stage but to build and make the power transmission lines (along with their associated infrastructures) for optimum use of the power plants capacity. If the PGCB delays to deliver the functional power transmission lines, the power plants will remain idle and the country will have to pay manifold financial and economic losses. BPDB and the Power Division of the government, therefore, should concentrate on implementation of a comprehensive plan for power generation, transmission and distribution facility building and their timely implementation for minimising national losses.
Mushfiqur Rahman is a mining engineer and writes on energy and environment issues. [email protected]