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Renewable Energy In Bangladesh: Target And Reality

   November 3, 2019        256        Rokan Uddin

Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority- SREDA has been formed on 10th December 2012 as a nodal agency to promote, facilitate and disseminate sustainable energy. Earlier, different ministries and departments, including the Bangladesh Power Development Board- BPDB, the Rural Electrification Board- REB, the Local Government Engineering Department- LGED, and some autonomous bodies like IDCOL and also the private sector was working on renewable energy. But the necessity of an authoritative organization in renewable energy sector to maintain coordination among them was being felt. So, an institution like SREDA was inevitable. The institution is now working under Power Division of the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources of the Government of Bangladesh as a coordination body for the development of the renewable energy in the country.

The government is now eyeing a target of generating 10% of its power from renewable resources by the next year. The government did not attain its goal of generating five percent of the country’s electricity from renewable sources by 2015; but that did not deter it from continuing to aim high. Bangladesh is currently generating around 601 MW of electricity from renewables, which is less than 3% of total power generation. So how can government generate another two thousands MW’s by next year.

However, many efforts have already been made to attain the goal by the related ministry. Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (Sreda) initiated a number of solar power projects with a combined generation-capacity of 557 MW of electricity. According to Sreda’s website, at least eight solar parks with a 100MW-capacity each and a 200MW capacity solar power project, are in the planning process; while two 200MW capacity solar parks are now under construction.
The country’s current power generation capacity stands at more than 22 thousands, while average production hovers between 10 thousands MW to 12 thousands and 893MW, a PDB estimate shows.

According to the Renewable Energy Policy 2008, the government was supposed to achieve 5% power generation from renewable sources by 2015, and the figure was supposed to double by 2020.Given the current average rate of power generation, renewable sources have to contribute at least 2 thousands MW of electricity in the next two years, even if overall production remains unchanged.

Presently, a total of 601.88 MW of power is generated from renewable energy, of which a whopping 367.95MW comes from solar power. Hydropower is the second-highest contributor to the renewable energy sector by whopping 230 MW; followed by wind power at 2.90 MW and biomass and biogas adding 1 MW.

According to Sreda, renewable energy makes up merely 2.82% of the entire energy sector in Bangladesh; which includes the off-grid share (299.21MW) of renewable energy. Claiming the target of generating 10% of power from renewable sources is a tall order and Sreda authority remains optimistic that this target can be reached. Considering the large solar power projects under construction and the expansion of net-metering, they can hope to get closer to the goal by 2020, if not pass the production limit.

Meanwhile, the Sreda always said they have been working hard to reach their goal and the outcome is on an upward trend. They pointed out that the availability of suitable land is an issue for undertaking solar power projects; since the government stands against the acquisition of arable land.

The government is also presently focusing on net metering to boost solar power generation and popularize it among the masses. The government, ever since announcing its Power System Master Plan 2016, has reiterated that it will generate 10% of power from renewable sources; but growth in this regard does not reflect that percentage. Another major challenge in the field of renewable energy in Bangladesh is related to the technological aspects. While we have commendable performance in terms of off grid renewable energy production, only 17 MW of electricity is coming from on-grid solar solutions. We also do not have enough contribution from non-solar renewable energy solutions like wind power, biomass gasification etc. There should be more research and development and pilot projects.

It is estimated that in the next 15 to 20 years the investment required in the energy sector for desired change will be around USD 70 billion. This implies that financing the transition of our energy sector is also going to be a huge challenge. We have to look both inside and outside the country to confront this challenge. For the solution from inside, we must get our private sector interested in the field of renewable energy. We can also mobilize resources through circulating green bonds in the market. There are numerous examples of such bonds being very successful across the world. For the solution from the outside, we have to try and engage the international development partners and investors. It should not be too difficult for us considering the current stability of our economy.

Bangladesh has been ranked the lowest hydropower producing country in Asia, a position unchanged since 2017, according to the 2018 Hydropower Status Report prepared by the International Hydropower Association.

Government’s are committed to green growth and clean energy, but there lie a lot of hurdles on the way of achieving these. For example, on paper we are committed to enhance utilization of renewable energy in Bangladesh. But in practices we are flooded with numerous challenges. These include coordination among the actors, sensitizing the customer base, pacing up implementation of the plans and perhaps the largest of all challenges ensuring finance.

Bangladesh currently produces 230MW of its electricity from hydroelectric power plants. The country’s combined capacity for power generation crossed the 22 thousands MW mark in July this year and it has a target of generating 24 thousands MW of electricity by 2021, 40 thousands MW by 2030, and 60 thousands MW by 2041. We must also not forget that we intend to rely completely on renewable energy by the year 2041. One could say that these targets are too ambitious, but if we look to our neighboring country India who plans to produce 50 percent of the energy they require from renewable sources by 2030, then it will be clear that the targets that we have set for ourselves are not that ambitious.

Rokan Uddin

Member, Forum for Energy Reporters Bangladesh

(This Key Note Paper was presented in a seminar at National Press Club, Dhaka)

Energy Bangla