Largest-ever renewable energy project on cards

Agreement for the 500mw project with China this month

The government is going to build several mega renewable energy plants, mainly solar-based, in various regions of the country in phases under the largest-ever renewable energy project to be implemented with Chinese support.

An agreement will be signed to this end in the middle of July between state-run North-West Power Generation Company Ltd (NWPGCL) and China National Machinery Import and Export Corporation (CMC) to form a joint venture – Bangladesh-China Power Company.

The total daily electricity production from the project, consisting of wind and solar plants, will be about 500 megawatts, an official said.

Experts said Bangladesh is planning to gradually switch to renewable energy as the world is now turning to environment-friendly renewable energy due to the depletion of fossil fuels.

An official said NWPGCL and CMC will have 50-50 equity in the joint venture.
The Bangladesh side will provide land while the Chinese government-run company will invest around $500 million for the project. It has a target to generate a total of 500MW of electricity by 2023 starting this year.

Md Khurshedul Alam, Chief Executive officer (CEO) of NWPGCL told Bangladesh Post, “The government approved the formation of a joint venture with China last June 8. Now the process of forming the company is going on.”

“We will be able to sign JVA with the Chinese company via videoconference between July 10 and 12. Registration will take place after the formation of the company. [We] hope the first tender will be floated to start the main work of the project this year after completing all the processes,” he added.

Khurshedul Alam said initially a 65-megawatt solar power plant will be built in Sujanagar in Pabna district and then another solar power plant, with capacity of around 80MW, will be set up in Siraganj district.
“Other power plants will be built in phases,” he said.

According to the power division sources, of the total 500MW electricity, 50MW will be generated from a ‘wind power plant’ to be built at Payra in Patuakhali district. The rest 450MW will be solar based power plants. All the individual power generation units will be connected to the national grid line.

The government, over the last 10 years, has undertaken a considerable number of renewable energy projects. It aims to produce total of 6,000 megawatts of electricity from renewable energy by 2041.

The state-owned IDCOL started solar home system (SHS) program in 2003 to fulfil basic electricity requirement of the off-grid rural people in remote areas of the country. Around 4.5 million SHSs have been installed under the program. It has been claimed as the largest off-grid renewable energy program in the world.

At a virtual conference on June 25, State Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Nasrul Hamid said that the renewable energy would ensure future energy security. The government is cooperating in the expansion of renewable energy.

He also said that Although it is not possible to build a large-scale solar power plant in Bangladesh due to its agro-based economy, it can be advanced with rooftop solar power plants or floating solar power plants. Besides, the power division is also working on wind and waste based power plants. On June 2, a report by the UN watchdog International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) said the electricity generation cost from renewable energy sources such as solar and wind is declining by 13 percent each year. In the last 10 years, the generation cost of solar power has decreased by 82 percent and wind power by 39 percent.

“If renewable energy based power plants were built instead of the world's 500,000 megawatts of coal-fired power plants, it would save 23 billion a year and reduce carbon emissions by 180 billion tons. In that case, the world's total carbon emissions will be reduced by five percent.”

According to the IRENA report, currently the generation cost per unit of solar power plants is on an average 6.8 cent (Tk 5.78). The generation cost of wind power is 5.3 cents (Tk 4.50) on land and 11.5 cents (Tk 9.77) at sea. However, the generation cost of newly solar power plants will be 3.9 cents (Tk 3.31), which is 43 percent less than the cost in 2019.

‘The generation cost per unit from fuels like oil and coal is 6.6 cents (taka 5.61),’ the report says.
However, the cost is higher in Bangladesh due to the import of coal and oil. The average power generation cost per unit is Tk 8.5 to Tk 9.

According to the report, not only generation, but also the construction cost of renewable energy-based power plants has come down. In 2010, per unit generation cost of a solar power plant was $4,695, which was only $995 in 2019. The land-based wind power plant construction cost in 2010 was $1,849, which is now at $1473.

Comparing the construction of coal, oil and gas based plants with solar and wind power, the cost of renewable energy power plants is now lower. Apart from that, there is no capacity payment or plant rent in solar power plants. If there is no electricity, there is no payment.