Bangladesh Power Panorama: Goal for Energy Security with Inclusion of Solar Energy
Two sisters; Razia aged 16 and Ayesha aged 10, living in a small house of a remote village in Srimangal upoazilla, Sylhet. Razia is studying in class 10 and Ayesha is a PSC examination candidate. Couple of months ago Kerosene lamp was the only source of light they used to have at night, so it was challenging for them to study more at night. The village is still off the main grid but the sisters have a new source of electricity they can turn to; solar panel on their house roof. Today, Ayesha can flip a light switch and a LED bulb glows from the ceiling. Now she can study extra hours for her exam preparation without any intervention at night. Off-grid solar energy is changing the life styles in the rural areas of Bangladesh.
Perceived to be a middle income country Bangladesh has set a vision to generate 24,000 MW of electricity by 2021. But the expense in power generation tells that we are acting like a rich country already. To meet the domestic power demand, we import high cost diesel, heavy fuel oil(HFO), coal etc. on the other hand we use our declining natural gas resources as well. But Bangladesh is rich with many natural resources for alternative power generation which are used today at a very modest level; solar and wind energy. Bangladesh has a daily solar irradiation exceeding 4 kWh per square meter and in the coastal region, a substantial wind resources. Also we have a coastal line of 580 KM with many windy areas that can be use in both onshore and offshore wind power generation.
According to Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (SREDA), the newest member of power-cell which was formed in 2012, the contribution of renewable energy is only 3.45%. Though the renewable energy policy 2008 is targeting to reach the contribution up to 10% of total power generation by 2020. On the other hand, the overall power generation growth of 10% Y-Y rise indicates that the power contribution has to exceed 2000MW from renewable energy by 2020. Many power experts argued regarding this slightly overambitious vision, but government is working relentlessly to fulfill their commitment to people of Bangladesh. Currently approx. 550 MW of electricity is coming from renewable source where 2.5 crore consumer consume over 16,042.81 MW of electricity. In the breakdown down table of renewable energy the contribution from Biogas, Biomass and Wind is very negligible, close to 5 MW. Other than that Solar and Hydro power plat are playing the key role here, however the electricity generation from Hydro is constant as we have one and the only power plat “Kaptai Hydro power plant” which was built in 1988.
Solar energy is getting poplar mainly in the rural areas as it is cheap, clean and reliable in the long run than Kerosene and village generators. According to SREDA energy efficiency master database more than 4.5 million solar home system (SHS), 691 solar irrigations, 152 solar drinking water system have been installed throughout the country. IDCOL playing a significant role in this SHS installation mega work, as these 4.5 million SHS have saved 1.41 million tons of Kerosene so far. The project has been claimed as the largest off-grid renewable energy program in the world. A diesel generator costs about 3,000 taka (USD $38) a month to light a three room house where Solar home system costs 1,255 taka (USD $17) in monthly installments after a down payment on a loan that expects to pay off within two hours. But the future of solar is not off-grid SHS anymore when government decided to build 10 on-grid mega solar park across the country by 2020. The demand for clean energy is rising, but the main conclusion is that the development of infrastructure and technical backend is currently at a crossroad. The overambitious task of building this solar park depends on the success rate where public, private and the third sector have to overcome many barriers such as, delayed and complex land acquisition, scarcity of skilled manpower, lengthy bureaucratic system etc. Over 85% of the solar energy will be producing by these solar parks and BPDP has awarded seven Independent Power producer (IPP) through unsolicited project process. Here we see the big challenge is hitting in the herculean task, five out of seven producers have faced disruption in plant land acquisition. Therefore, no satisfactory development was seen in the regard despite giving permission to many IPP and entrepreneurs to produce electricity from renewable energy. The quick process of giving permission under speedy supply of power and energy (Special Provision) Act 2010, to building plant seems not that much speedy at all. The following list is the permitted solar parks which was supposed to in operation by 2018, but not a single plant could not be built till date.
Bangladesh government has approved total 18 solar project proposals through “No electricity No payment” policy for building nationwide solar park that would add more than 1050 MW of electricity by end of 2017, but none of them can finish its infrastructure development yet. The reason behind the lengthy lead time is, large-sized solar power plants need a huge area of land to install solar panels, but in Bangladesh such barren field is hardly available. Recently, energy experts from SREDA has identified a shortage of uncultivated land in the densely populated country as a significant constraint to plan large-scale solar plants. The policy is to setup solar parks only in non-agricultural lands to keep food production unhampered. On-grid solar parks projects have seen slower growth in terms of infrastructure development due to scarcity of Land. In conclusion, many powers experts suggested that proper investigation on technical feasibility should be done before awarding the mega solar projects to new consortium and entrepreneurs to achieve the vision of producing clear energy.