The government has planned to set up a massive 1,200 megawatt coal-fired power plant at a staggering cost of about $4 billion in Matarbari island of Maheshkhali, touted as the country's future energy hub.
According to a feasibility study conducted by Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) with Tokyo Electric Power, power from this plant would cost nearly Tk 7 per kilowatt hour when it begins commercial production in 2023 using imported coal. Though the price is high in the present context, it is acceptable in the context of future scenario.
But the project cost is significantly higher than the Indo-Bangla joint venture 1,320 megawatt Rampal coal fired power plant, which would need at least $1.5 billion. However, the total cost of Rampal plant, where a consultant is now being appointed, excludes the cost for project site purchase, river dredging and construction of transmission line.
The Matarbari plant's power generation component alone would require $3 billion, making it one of the costliest power projects in the country.
Besides, $1 billion will be spent to set up a port for large ships with a capacity of 80,000 tonnes, a high voltage 400 kV power transmission line from Maheshkhali to Anwara, construction of road and two bridges from Chakaria up to the project site.
This would be the first venture of the newly formed Coal Power Generation Company Bangladesh Ltd. The project is part of the government's plan to eventually produce 10,000 MW power in Maheshkhali, in addition to setting up a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal there to import LNG equivalent to 500 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) in near future to address the country's ever-increasing gas crisis.
Maheshkhali is located close to Sonadia island, the proposed site for the country's first deep sea port.
As per the project's implementation schedule, the government needs to sign a loan agreement by late March and then appoint a consultant. But due to the volatile political situation since late last year, progress to this end has been stalled. Officials at this point are not sure about when the loan agreement could be signed and with whom.
The schedule also says that the basic design, bid documents preparation and floating of the tender for prequalifying power companies for this project would be done within next year and the contract would be awarded in 2016 so that a 52-month construction can begin in 2017.
The plant would be built on 1,500 acres of land keeping in mind its future expansion. The cost of this land has been estimated at Tk350 crore.
The feasibility report identified that the site has one bird and five reptiles, which have been designated worldwide as threatened species. But the species would not be harmed by the project if certain rules and restrictions were enforced.
The proposed ultra-supercritical (USC) technology for this plant would consume 2,16,400 tonnes less coal than the basic coal plants and emit 1,98,300 tonnes less carbon per year. However, it would use medium quality coal to save cost whereas the Rampal plant would use the best quality coal considering environmental concerns over the nearby Sundarbans forest.
The plant would use seawater after desalination for its cooling system. The water would be discharged into the sea at an ambient temperature. It would have elaborate air and water pollution control arrangements.
A well-placed power ministry source said the government had drafted a coal based power policy outlining an obligation for any future coal power plant to create and maintain a fund for the local community development from a part of power sales revenue. It is applicable for this project.
With one of its components, the Matarbari plant would go for full electrification of the local community.