Bangladesh eyes 40% power generation from green energy by 2041
In line with its massive plan for the entire power sector, the government remains over-ambitious regarding renewable energy too as it keeps expanding its plan.
Earlier, it failed to produce the 5% power from renewable sources by 2015 and 10% by last year. The renewable energy production has never been close to hitting the targets.
And now, even after almost six months having gone by in 2021, the country produces only 730.62MW (349.78 off-grid and 380.84 on-grid) green energy, accounting for just 2.91% of the total energy mix.
Despite such poor performance, the government is optimistic that 40% of electricity will come from renewable sources by 2041.
Bangladesh’s total installed power generation capacity now stands at 25,145 MW, according to the Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (SREDA).
“It’s true that we’ve failed to achieve our target. We are facing multifold challenges logistically, such as scarcity of land, cost of renewable energy products, lack of exploration, competition with extensive fossil fuel industry”, said its Chairman Mohammad Alauddin.
He, however, claimed to be on the right track now.
“Our vision is very clear; as a representative of SREDA, I can tell you right now we’re in the ‘take-off’ stage,” said Alauddin.
Bangladesh is among South Asian countries producing the lowest amount of green energy. For instance, renewable energy sources account for only 4% of total electricity production in Pakistan.
Lucrative plans and scope
State Minister for Power Nasrul Hamid says he hopes Bangladesh would produce 40% electricity from renewable sources by 2041 in line with the Power System Master Plan (PSMP).
According to him, about 20 million people in the rural areas had already been brought under power coverage through 5.8 million solar home systems.
Bangladesh, he said, had the potential to install grid-connected solar power plants, which was greatly obstructed by land scarcity.
The junior minister laid stress on the innovation of necessary technologies to help boost mega solar power plant installation on a small piece of land.
Hinting at the struggles that the sector faced initially, energy expert Dipal Chandra Barua, however, said the situation had improved a lot over the years.
“The first renewable energy plant was established in Bangladesh in the 1990s. Back then, we were ignored as an industry--but the mindset of the government and policymakers has changed towards green energy,” said Barua, who is also the president of the Bangladesh Solar and Renewable Energy Association.
Being the chair of Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), a global body, the government was focusing more on the renewable energy sector and the National Solar Energy Roadmap, 2021-2041 had duly been drafted, he said.
Shahriar Ahmed Chowdhury, director of the Centre for Energy Research at United International University (UIU), said with the aim of promoting solar power, the net-metering policy coupled with a profitable business model had been adopted.
Additionally, the government with the purpose of exploring the green energy potentials has included the topic in the 100-year-long Bangladesh Delta Plan 2100.
The government had a plan of reclaiming at least 4,000sq km land of occupied river banks, he said, adding: “If only 4% of the land is allotted for green energy, 16MW power can be produced.”
Special attention needed
Despite a flamboyant attitude and commitments, this renewable energy sector is largely neglected in the matter of receiving encouragement from the government, according to Barua.
There was no fixed loan interest rate for renewable energy producers, he said, adding that some big companies got loans at 9% interest, while many others had to pay up to 16%.
Barua recommends a separate division or department for renewables to boost the sector.
Wind, hydropower potentials lag behind
Despite huge potential, Bangladesh produces just 2.9 MW power from wind.
A US agency in 2018 revealed that Bangladesh's southern coastal belt offered potential for generating power through wind.
The coastal belts of Khulna, Barisal and Chittagong divisions had more than 6 metres per second (m/s) wind speed at 120-metre height, which was sufficient for generating electricity, a study conducted by the agency said.
For wind speeds of 5.75-7.75 m/s, there are more than 20,000 square kilometres of land with a gross wind potential of more than 30,000MW, the study said.
“Although this estimate is not realistic when proper filters are applied to screen out undesirable land for wind development, it suggests that Bangladesh's 10 percent renewable target by 2021 is achievable,” the report added.
The story of hydropower is frustrating as well. Bangladesh generates 230MW hydropower, making it the lowest producer in the entire South Asian region although it has ample sources of water.