Parliament passes ‘quick rental’ power bill amid protests

Parliament has given the greenlight to a bill extending the special law on the purchase of electricity from ‘quick rental’ power plants by another five years amid protests by opposition leaders against the decade-old law.  

The Speedy Supply of Power and Energy (Special Provision) (Amendment) Bill 2021 was presented by State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid and passed in a voice vote on Thursday. 

MPs from the Jatiya Party and BNP opposed the law, claiming it was designed to hand over government revenue collected from people to others.

Hamid defended the move, saying the extension will ensure “power supply without disruptions”.

After the Awami League returned to power in 2009, the government began signing deals for renting power plants for up to 16 years. The law was passed to legalise the plants.

Although the government considers the plants as useful in maintaining dynamism in the economy with increased power supply, the subsidies to pay the high cost of electricity from the plants have drawn criticism.

The latest extension includes a provision to allow the signing of deals with interested organisations upon discussions through a special committee.

As many as 65 projects in the power and energy sector have been approved under the law, according to the state minister.

Recently the government stated that, following the extension, the rental power plants would remain on ‘standby’.

Hamid said the plants will only be paid when the government buys electricity. “Otherwise, they won’t be paid. And this arrangement will continue.”

The power, energy and mineral resources ministry in a report to a parliamentary standing committee in March said the plants would be shut down by 2024.