Prioritising renewable energy generation

The government has reportedly set a target to generate 2000 megawatts of electricity from renewable energy sources in three years, which will be 10 per cent of the country’s total power production. Currently, 447.51 megawatt (MW) of electricity is generated through renewable sources, which is 2.87 per cent of the total power generation. The government’s move to raise renewable energy production is in line with the Seventh Five Year Plan and for achieving the 3rd target of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Bangladesh has, in the meantime, topped the global list of renewable energy using countries, with installing the highest number of Solar Home Systems (SHSs). Over 4.5 million solar systems have so far been installed under a programme of the Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCL) .The Company is promoting and financing renewable energy initiatives and energy efficient projects through public-private-partnership (PPP). Nearly 13 million beneficiaries are getting solar power from such SHSs.

The Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (SREA), a government agency, is promoting and developing renewable energy and energy efficiency activities in public and private sectors. The power generation capacity reached 15,596.51 MW including 447.51MW from renewable sources.The government has signed a good number of agreements with private entrepreneurs for setting up green energy plants in the country. It has recently taken an initiative to generate 500MW of electricity from solar plants, which will require a funding of $2.76 billion.

Out of the fund, $2.23 billion is expected to come from development partners while the remaining will be arranged by the government and private partners. Under a long-term plan, the government also approved four solar power plants having a combined capacity of 258 MW to be installed at different places across the country in the next 20 years at a cost Tk 91.58 billion.

There is no denying that sustainable and renewable energy is the future of the country’s energy sector. The government is expected to implement a new policy to increase the use of renewable energy as part of its greater goal to ensure energy security of the country. Currently, the country’s power generation is mostly dependent on imported oil and natural gas which is running out fast.

The country is getting renewable energy from wind, biomass and biogas amid growing concerns over a steady decline of non-renewable resources. Many countries are trying to seek alternative sources of energy to meet their future needs. It is anticipated that the renewable energy will take a vital role in future for off-grid electrification in the country.The country’s electricity demand has been growing by 7.50 per cent annually since 1990. Around 40 per cent of its population has access to electricity — one of the lowest in the world, the power ministry statistics reveals.

In order to encourage private sector investment, incentives are being given for installation of solar, wind and biomass utilities. Sponsors of renewable energy projects, public or private, have been exempted from corporate income tax for a period of 15 years. The project sponsors can also import equipment without payment of customs duties.

However, the hydropower potential of the country is low due to the relative flatness of the country. Wind power generation in Bangladesh has certain limitations due to the lack of reliable wind speed data and the remarkable seasonal variation of wind speed. The country has good prospect of utilising solar photovoltaic (PV) systems for electricity generation, but the high capital investment cost is a big barrier for adopting such systems. Biomass is the major energy source in Bangladesh and its utilisation system represents a proven environment-friendly option for small- to medium-scale decentralised electricity generation.

Contribution of biomass in total primary energy consumption of Bangladesh is around 60 per cent. The major sources of traditional biomass are agricultural residues, wood and wood wastes, and animal dung, and their shares in energy supply are approximately 45 per cent, 35 per cent and 20 per cent respectively. Industrial and commercial use of biomass accounts for 14 per cent of total energy consumption. 63 per cent of energy required in the industrial sector comes from biomass fuel. So far, 50,000 biogas plants have been established across the country and these plants are producing gas, which is being used for cooking purposes in rural areas.

By the year 2020, 10 per cent of total electricity has been targeted to come from renewable resources. The number of solar system installations in the country is on the rise. Biogas plants are now popular in rural areas. More steps can be taken to popularise the proven solar water heating system, solar cooker or solar dryer. It requires proper planning from the government and the non-government organisations (NGOs) at the grassroots level.


But the hard truth is that the country is more or less dependent on non-renewable resources such as petroleum and natural gas to meet the growing energy needs. The contribution of renewable sources to power generation still remains negligible. Efficient utilisation of renewable energy resources is yet to assume commercial dimensions and hence rational policy dissemination on renewable energy usage is essential.

Bangladesh is also advancing fast to set up a nuclear power plant which is apparently a viable energy option. Side by side, the country must exploit renewable energy resources to generate electricity as much as possible. With fast depleting natural gas reserve, these options must be diligently weighed to meet the nagging energy demand of the country.




The Financial Express

Shahiduzzaman Khan | Saturday, 29 October 2017