Chinese BRI boosts Bangladesh power sector

As a Chinese old saying goes, "Teaching people to fish," The Payra power plant has provided approximately 8,400 jobs and nearly 6,300 vocational skills training opportunities to local residents, becoming a well-deserved talent cultivation base in the area.

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Photo taken on July 7, 2024 shows a view of Payra Power Plant in Patuakhali, Bangladesh. (Xinhua)

Driving towards Payra Port, Bangladesh’s third-largest port, a 220-meter high cooling tower can be seen standing tall within the plant area from a distance. This plant area is home to Bangladesh’s largest power station, a 1,320 MW ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plant.

Previously, Bangladesh faced a power supply gap due to a lack of mineral resources such as coal, inadequate power infrastructure, and rapidly growing electricity demand driven by fast economic growth. Power outages are common.

Against this background, in 2016, this key project jointly developed, invested, constructed and operated by China National Machinery Import & Export Corp., and Bangladesh’s North-West Power Generation Company Limited began construction.

In addition to overcoming global challenges such as poor geological conditions, significant variations in coal quality, and extremely high wind speeds, the Payra project also introduced ultra-supercritical technology to make Bangladesh the 13th country in the world to possess such technology.

In 2022, the power station was finally completed. Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said at the inauguration ceremony, “This is the biggest thing that we’ve been able to lighthouses of every people.”

“The Payra Power Plant is equivalent to the ‘ballast stone’ of Bangladesh’s power supply,” said Wang Xiangzhi, the Chinese technical manager on-site at the Bangladesh-China Power Company Limited, adding that the plant can provide Bangladesh with 8.58 billion kWh of stable and reliable electricity annually, accounting for about 10 percent of the country’s total electricity demand and 25 percent of the southwestern grid’s demand.

Furthermore, to improve resource utilization efficiency, the project uses the by-products generated from the plant’s operation as industrial materials. Currently, the ash and gypsum produced by the plant are used in industries such as brick-making, cement production, and road paving, effectively shutting down about 50 brick factories.

“While providing high-quality electricity, the Payra Power Plant also takes environmental friendliness into account, injecting green vitality into Bangladesh’s long-term development,” said Wang.

As a Chinese old saying goes, “Teaching people to fish,” The Payra power plant has provided approximately 8,400 jobs and nearly 6,300 vocational skills training opportunities to local residents, becoming a well-deserved talent cultivation base in the area.

“From zero to now, we have learned a lot all from our Chinese colleagues over four years,” said Bangladeshi engineer Injamam Ul Haque, who has been working on the project, adding that many graduates of related majors could not find corresponding jobs in their own country, but this power plant provided them with the opportunity to find corresponding jobs in their own country.

“Many such plants are under construction in other parts of Bangladesh with China’s assistance. As part of the Belt and Road Initiative, this collaboration is significantly benefiting our power sector,” Haque said.

As Haque said, the 50 MW photovoltaic power plant invested by HDFC SinPower Ltd. whose major shareholder is China Huadian Overseas Investment Co., Ltd. started construction in September 2019 to utilize the advantage of solar resources here.

After more than a year of hard construction work, approximately 170,000 solar panels from China were installed in Mymensingh area, an important power node in central Bangladesh and a key connection point in the grid, by the end of 2020.

As Bangladesh’s first photovoltaic power station, this project has opened the door to solar power generation in the country, converting solar energy into electricity to light up thousands of households. Additionally, the project helps Bangladesh reduce carbon emissions by over 50,000 tons annually.

“It is excellent that we have a photovoltaic power plant in this area,” local resident Md. Fazlul Haque told Xinhua, adding “The residents of this area are very happy.”

“Previously, we didn’t have access to electricity, but now, thanks to solar power, we do, Fazlul said, adding there were only a few people living here before, but now many houses are being built because of the availability of electricity.

Not just photovoltaic power. In Cox’s Bazar, a southeastern coastal city of Bangladesh, 22 wind turbines of the country’s first centralized wind power project, which was invested by Wuling Power Corp., a subsidiary of China’s State Power Investment Corp., and built by PowerChina Chengdu Engineering Corp., are rotating in the wind.

Upon full operation, the project will provide Bangladesh with about 145 million kWh of clean electricity per year, reduce coal consumption by 44,600 tons and carbon dioxide emissions by 109,200 tons, as well as meet the electricity demand of 100,000 households.

Bangladeshi engineer Md. Mukit Alam who works for this project said that each wind turbine at this wind power station utilizes the latest Chinese technology, capable of easily handling wind speeds of up to 5.2 meters per second. Additionally, the current arrangement of the towers and turbines ensures that local farmers’ cultivation and salt farmers’ salt production are not affected.

“This is the first time a Chinese company, as an investor, has introduced wind power to Bangladesh, marking a milestone in the country’s clean energy development,” Hei Zhao, general manager of Bangladesh division of Wuling Power Corp., said during the project construction, the company introduced Chinese solutions, standards, equipment, and technology.

This not only gained local recognition but also trained Bangladesh’s first batch of wind power field operation talents. The Power Division under the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources frequently organizes experts to visit and study the project, Hei added.

“It’s a major watershed in our nation’s journey towards cleaner and more sustainable energy,” said Md. Habibur Rahman, senior secretary of Power Division under Bangladesh’s Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources, when addressing the launching ceremony in 2023.

According to incomplete statistics, since Bangladesh joined the “Belt and Road Initiative,” China has built 27 power energy projects in Bangladesh. So far, the capacity of power stations participated by Chinese companies in Bangladesh exceeds 9,038 MW accounting for about 35 percent of the total installed capacity of Bangladesh, providing a stable power supply guarantee for the rapid economic and social development of Bangladesh and helping the Bangladeshi people turn their dreams into reality.

Xinhua News Agency

Founded in 1931, Xinhua News Agency is one of the largest news organizations in the world, with over 10,000 employees across the globe. As the main source of news and information for China, Xinhua plays a key role in shaping the country's media landscape and communicating its perspectives to the world. The agency produces a wide range of content, including text news articles, photos, videos, and social media posts, in both Chinese and English, and its reports are widely used by media organizations around the world. Xinhua also operates several international bureaus, including in key capitals like Washington, D.C., Moscow, and London, to provide in-depth coverage of global events.

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