Implementation of the ongoing solar power plant projects that are somehow dependent on Chinese machinery and manpower is likely to be delayed by at least four months due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“A huge number of Chinese workers who went back home to spend holidays are unable to return and join the works after the outbreak,” said a top official at the Power Division who deals with renewable energy projects.Coronavirus, now known as COVID-19, has so far killed 1,355 people and infected nearly 60,000 others.
Sources at the Power Division said most of the solar power plants, either in public or private sector, are somehow dependent on Chinese machinery and manpower.
Official documents showed that 21 solar power projects, having about 1,220 MW capacity, are currently being implemented under the Power Division.
Of these, some are being implemented by state-owned Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) where Chinese companies are working as contractors to supply the equipment, system and also engaged in construction of the plants.
On the other hand, some Chinese companies are the sponsors in private projects.
“But almost all equipment are coming from China and Chinese nationals are working to install those plants,” said the top official of the Power Division, preferring anonymity.He noted that Chinese companies are engaged in most of the projects as either suppliers or contractors.
"That's why coronavirus is a big concern for us," he said, noting that the implantation timelines of these projects is between 2020 and 2021. “If the outbreak continues, it’ll have a huge impact on overall project implementation.”
Officials said there are reports that the commissioning of the country's largest 1,250MW Payra coal-fired plant project in Patuakhali was halted following the outbreak of coronavirus in China as a huge number of Chinese workers of the plant went home to spend holiday.
The test run of the 600MW first phase of the Payra 1,320MW project was conducted in January this year, but the official commissioning is now being delayed by the coronavirus outbreak in China.
Director General of the Power Cell Mohammad Hossain said the overall impact of coronavirus in power sector, especially in power project implementation, has not been assessed so far.
But this matter may come up in the project progress and coordination meeting which is expected to be held in later part of February. “We’ll get a clear picture of the impact then,” he told UNB.