Govt to buy surplus electricity from solar irrigation projects

In its avowed goal of meeting increasing power demand, the government is going to buy surplus electricity generated from the solar irrigation system to increase the use of renewable energy.

Official sources said, the Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (SREDA) has prepared a draft guideline for grid integration of solar irrigation pumps. Besides a pilot project will start soon.

Generating electricity from the solar irrigation system is considered as the least negative impact on environment compared to other energy sources. Solar energy is obtained from the sun’s radiation and it can be converted to electricity. It is easily available and thanks to advances in technology, the country can now harness even more of the solar irrigation system. Of late, the government has introduced the net-metering policy to buy electricity from the people’s rooftops solar system. Under the system, the people, who use electricity from the grid, can adjust their bills through an exchange arrangement by a special meter.

‘Under the new policy more than 500 SNMS with a capacity of 10 megawatt (MW) of electricity has already been installed and the trend shows it is increasing,’ a power division official said. Md Helal Uddin, additional secretary of the Power Division and Chairmen of Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority (Sreda) told The Bangladesh Post ‘Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced that Bangladesh wants to generate 100 percent electricity from renewable energy by 2050. We have already taken various initiatives to promote renewable energy’.

“We have prepared a draft policy to purchase surplus electricity from solar irrigation pump operators. It was also published on SREDA website to elicit comments from the people. The policy will be finalised after a meeting with stakeholders. The new policy will help increase the use of renewable energy,” he added.

SREDA official said the Bright Green Energy Foundation (BGEF) would like to implement the new system in Kushtia on pilot basis. BGEF Chairmen Dipal C Barua told The Bangladesh Post “We are going to implement the new system of our existing solar irrigation project with a capacity of 24.5 kilowatt (KW) in Kushtia. Hope the pilot project will be completed within 2-3 months.”

Dipal, also President of Bangladesh Solar and Renewable Energy Association, said it is a good initiative to promote the use of renewable energy. Under this system, both consumers and the government will be benefited. 

“It is not always necessary to irrigate cropland. But the solar system continues to generate electricity in presence of sunlight. Ultimately, the electricity gets wasted during that time. Therefore, we can use this excess electricity for various purposes to get more commercial benefits of the Solar Irrigation System. However, these pump operators also require support to make the venture commercially viable,” he continued.

Power Division officials said solar-based irrigation projects are innovative and environment-friendly solution to the agro-based economy of Bangladesh. The project is becoming popular day by day. More than one thousand projects have already been taken. The government wants to go for more solar-irrigation projects in an effort to protect the negative impact on the environment and help the farmers as well.

Solar irrigation systems reduce dependency on fossil fuel and demand for electricity from national grid during irrigation seasons. The programme also reduces carbon emission and at the same time saves millions in foreign currency.

State-owned Infrastructure Development Company Limited (IDCOL) has now set a target of installing 50,000 solar irrigation pumps by 2025. Some NGOs and private organisations are installing and supervising the pumps. The World Bank, KfW, GPOBA, JICA, USAID, ADB and BCCRF are supporting this initiative.

Power division and IDCOL sources said the government has initiated several initiatives to reduce agricultural costs. Solar Irrigation Pump is less than one fourth of the irrigation cost of the diesel pump.

A solar pump can provide continuous irrigation water for more than 20 years. It’s run by sunlight. So there is no fuel cost. The irrigation cost for 1 bigha land under solar pump is Tk 2,500 to Tk 3,000, which is less than 1,000 to 1,800 taka compared to the diesel pump.

According to officials at Sreda, the country currently has around 1.34 million diesel-operated irrigation pumps across the country covering 3.4 million hectares of land. The government is aiming to replace these diesel-operated pumps with solar ones that will ensure 150MW of energy generation from the irrigation sector.

The entrepreneurs have to invest only 15 percent of the total cost of the Solar Irrigation Pump project. The IDCOL provides remaining 85 percent of the project cost. Of this, 50 percent will be provided in grants and 35 percent in simple-term loan with 6 percent interest which will have to be paid in 10 years.

The Renewable Energy Policy of Bangladesh mandates that 10 percent of electricity to come from renewable energy sources by 2020. In absolute terms, this means that at least 2000 MW has to be generated from renewable energy sources by 2020.