BD to invest $1.0b in Bhutan hydropower

M Azizur Rahman

Bangladesh is weighing a deal with Bhutan to invest around US$1.0 billion in hydropower in the landlocked country to re-import the electricity, officials said. It’s part of a regional power trade.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), an enterprise of the World Bank Group, has already assured the government of financing regional power trade involving Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Bhutan.

The Power Division under the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources (MPEMR) is currently examining the memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Bhutan.

“We are now working on the draft of the MoU sent by Bhutan,” a senior Power Division official told the FE Sunday.

The final draft would be sent back to Bhutan after necessary changes before inking the proposed deal, he said.

Once the MoU is inked, the two governments could start work on specific agenda to expedite import of electricity from the hydropower-rich Himalayan country, said the official.

Bangladesh has already completed preliminary talks with Bhutan as well as neighbouring India to facilitate import of hydroelectricity crossing over Indian territories.

Currently, India has electricity connectivity with Bhutan. India has invested in hydropower project in Bhutan before importing electricity. Bangladesh is set to follow suit, said an official.

A joint working group comprising officials of Bangladesh, India and Bhutan earlier had decided to prepare a framework for hydroelectric joint ventures in Bhutan.

Bhutanese Economic Minister Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk already visited high-voltage direct current (HVDC) back-to-back station of the state-owned Power Grid Company of Bangladesh Ltd (PGCB) at Bheramara in Kushtia last October to see the electricity-import infrastructure in Bangladesh.

Currently Bangladesh imports around 500 megawatts (MW) of electricity from India. Import of another amount of 100MW electricity from India’s Tripura state may start in March.

Bangladesh has also targeted to import more electricity from India after upgrading the existing grid capacity, said a senior official of the PGCB.

Before initiating electricity import, Bangladesh had inked a similar MoU with India on power-sector cooperation.

The government has opted for electricity import from neighbouring countries to diversify the country’s energy sources and enhance the overall electricity-generation capacity to 20,000 MWs by 2021 and to 40,000 MWs by 2030 under a master plan.

Bangladesh currently has a lone hydropower plant at Kaptai in the hill district of Rangamati, which was commissioned way back in 1962 with an installed capacity of 230 megawatts.

mazizur.rahman@outlook.com

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